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California will end plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for schoolchildren when the state ends its COVID-19 state of emergency on Feb. 28, California Department of Public Health officials told EdSource, which reported the news on Wednesday.
Commenting on the news, Michael Kane, national grassroots organizer for Children’s Health Defense (CHD) and founder of NY Teachers For Choice, told The Defender:
“We [in the movement] have some really good momentum right now, and what just happened in California is indicative of that.
“People are done with this. They’re done with the most extreme portions of this COVID agenda, the idea of this shot in kids is a no-starter for anybody.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October 2021, that California would be the first state to require COVID-19 vaccinations for children to attend school. It was also the first to mandate masking and staff vaccination measures.
At the time, state Sen. Richard Pan proposed legislation to strengthen the vaccine requirement even further by eliminating personal and religious exemptions. The legislation didn’t pass.
The vaccine requirement for children was originally set to kick in on July 1, 2022, when it was expected the vaccines, still under Emergency Use Authorization at the time, would be fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
But in April 2022, California announced it would delay the mandate to July 1, 2023.
The FDA still has not fully approved the COVID-19 vaccines for anyone under age 12. The CDC recommends the vaccines and the bivalent boosters for children ages 6 months and older.
The bivalent boosters were authorized for emergency use without any human clinical trials.
In California, 67% of 12- to 17-year-olds and 38% of children ages 5 to 11 have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine primary series. Less than 42% of 12- to 17-year-olds and less than 30% of 5- to 11-year-olds have been boosted.
Those numbers are higher than national averages. Only 58% of children ages 12 to 17 and 32% of children ages 5 to 11 have received two doses of the vaccine.
“The booster uptake is a complete failure, so this idea of routinizing a COVID shot for school every year, which is what they wanted, is failing in all the states they thought it was a guarantee in,” Kane said.
California ended the school mask mandate in March 2022, and ended the vaccine mandate for teachers and school staff in October 2022.
‘This kind of coercion never should have been normalized’
In the last two years, while state lawmakers debated California’s school vaccine mandate, school districts across the state proposed and passed their own COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Alex Gutentag, former Oakland public school teacher and political analyst, told The Defender:
“Newsom has referred to California as ‘the true freedom state,’ but he more than any other U.S. governor has tried to undermine the medical freedom of kids and their families when it comes to COVID-19.
“It is definitely a positive development that California is ending its plan for a school mandate, but it’s important to remember that many kids have already been coerced into vaccination through the threat of both statewide and local mandates.
“Several California cities, including Los Angeles, told families that COVID vaccines would be required to attend school in person, but eventually had to scrap and delay these plans. It was a clear effort to increase vaccine uptake, and was a major abuse of power. This kind of coercion never should have been normalized.”
The pressure to scrap mandate plans came in part from attorneys and citizen advocacy groups who brought three major lawsuits against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the Piedmont Unified School District and the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).
Children’s Health Defense-California Chapter (CHD-CA) and Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids (PERK), a California-based child advocacy group, used state laws to rule out local policies and pause vaccine mandates in the LAUSD and the Piedmont school district.
They sued the LAUSD, the second-largest school district in the U.S., alleging the district lacked the legal authority to impose a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students ages 12 and older.
The mandate would have excluded 32,000 students from in-person classes.
After Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff ruled the case could go forward in April 2022, the LAUSD announced it would delay the COVID-19 vaccine requirement until July 1, when the state mandate kicked in.
Piedmont also voted to repeal its mandate after a judge granted CHD-CA and PERK’s Application for an Alternative Writ of Mandate and ordered the district to show why its policy could not be struck down.
In San Diego, a group called Let Them Choose filed a lawsuit contesting the SDUSD’s vaccine mandate for school children ages 16 and up. The court ruled, and in December 2022, an appellate court affirmed, that the district’s mandate violated state guidelines.
According to Rita Barnett-Rose, legal director of CHD-CA, the San Diego ruling established that individual school districts cannot institute COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the district level, because there is a statewide statutory scheme in place to set mandates.
That means the end of the California COVID-19 vaccine mandate for children at the state level will effectively end all school mandates in California.
Political will for mandates faltering across the country
Rita Barnett-Rose underscored that California health officials have not yet made the news about ending the mandate for the state’s schools official. However, she said, “Right now it looks like positive news.”
However, Barnett-Rose said, “The question still remains, are they [state legislature] going to try to put something on the legislative agenda this year?”
Gutentag also noted the lack of an official announcement:
“I also think it’s notable that officials only said they were not going to implement the mandate after EdSource pressed them for answers. State leaders probably knew that there were too many legal and logistical challenges, but did not want to admit this in order to save face.
“All Californians should be concerned that our state government is not honest and direct with us about major policy decisions.”
This shift in California’s school mandate decision is the latest in a string of developments calling into question the COVID-19 vaccines and marking a shift in public consensus on vaccines.
“I’m not surprised at all that California is admitting that it’s not politically possible to force a shot that’s unnecessary and dangerous on children to attend school,” Kane said, adding:
“It makes perfect sense to me, given what I am seeing in New York that this same type of pressure is in California.
“The entire thing is political. The whole thing is what can we politically do? They can’t politically force the shot on kids. The fallout is too much. They just can’t risk it, you know.”
Barnett-Rose told The Defender she thinks that when Newsom announced the mandate he thought a lot of other states would follow suit.
“I’m hoping this signifies that the political will to force these mandates on kids is really declining significantly.”
CDC adds COVID shots to child immunization schedule
California reversed its vaccine mandate decision despite the fact that in October 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended adding COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old to the new Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule, which will be rolled out this month.
The revised recommendations include the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 6 months and the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12 years.
All COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the U.S. to people under 18 are still Emergency Use Authorized (EUA) products.
The FDA did grant full approval to Pfizer’s Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine for ages 12 and older. However, the Comirnaty vaccine is not available in the U.S. — which means all children who get the Pfizer vaccine are getting an EUA product.
The FDA also informed a congressional committee in May 2022 that the COVID-19 vaccines for children under 6 would not have to meet the agency’s 50% efficacy threshold required to obtain EUA.
COVID-19 vaccines for adolescents, teens and adults had to meet the requirement.
“If these vaccines seem to be mirroring efficacy in adults and just seem to be less effective against Omicron like they are for adults, we will probably still authorize,” Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
Last week, The Epoch Times reported that recently released emails revealed top officials, including Marks, rushed approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to enable vaccine mandates, despite concern by others in the agency that the rush compromised the integrity of the approval process.
On Dec. 9, 2022, the CDC expanded the use of updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months through 5 years. They made that decision despite the fact that the bivalent shots were approved for adults without any clinical data and have yet to show efficacy.
In an amicus brief for a lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandate for school children in the state of Louisiana, CHD wrote:
“Simply put, the COVID vaccines have not been shown to be either effective or safe for children. The benefits to children are minuscule, while the risks — including the risk of potentially fatal heart damage — are ‘known’ and ‘serious,’ as the [FDA] itself has acknowledged.”
The Louisiana Department of Health rescinded the mandate.
Legal struggles continue over age of consent for vaccines
Legal battles over vaccines for children in California and elsewhere are ongoing.
In California, Maribel Duarte is suing the LAUSD and Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy alleging they vaccinated her 13-year-old son without her consent.
A vaccine clinic was set up in his school — Barack Obama Global Prep Academy — and he was allegedly bribed with a pizza to get vaccinated without parental consent.
One of the adults at the clinic requested the teen provide a parent-signed consent form, which he did not have. The child was then told to sign his mother’s name and not tell anyone.
Currently, Sen. Cheryl Kagen of Maryland is proposing Senate Bill 378, which would allow children 14 and up to consent to vaccination themselves and prevent parents from accessing medical records.
California attempted to pass a similar bill, SB 866, for children ages 12 and up.
The District of Columbia also attempted to pass a similar law, for children 11 and older, but a preliminary injunction issued in March 2022 temporarily blocked the district from implementing the law.
CHD and the Parental Rights Foundation sued the district and are seeking to declare the D.C. act unconstitutional.
The D.C. school district still plans to mandate children be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend school starting in the 2023-2024 school year, just not without their parents’ consent.