The school board of San Diego Unified School District unanimously voted Tuesday night to implement a vaccine mandate for all staff and eligible students for in-person learning that will not recognize religious exemptions, according to school documents.
All staff and students 16 and older will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 20 to learn in person, the San Diego Union-TribuneÂ reported. Hundreds of people rallied outside the school board headquarters ahead of the meeting.
The school district cited research from seven UC San Diego experts who supported a vaccine mandate.
â€œRates of COVID are going up in children. Consistent with current California law, religious or personal belief exemptions should not be allowed,â€ UC San Diegoâ€™s Division of Infectious DiseasesÂ Dr. Mark Sawyer wrote in the guidelines
â€œObviously we mandate many vaccines for school to prevent infectious diseases that are transmitted in schools and COVID clearly is one of these,â€ Sawyer said. â€œThe non-pharmacologic measures (e.g. masks, ventilation, cohorting) are not going to be sufficient to prevent some transmission.â€
The districtâ€™s â€œvaccination roadmapâ€ said that those who donâ€™t get the vaccine will have to participate in remote, independent study and students under 16 will have to test for COVID-19 regularly before the vaccine is approved for their age group.
Students â€œmay be conditionally enrolled via in-person learning if they are in one of these groups:Â foster youth, homeless, migrant, military family, or have an IEP,â€ according to the districtâ€™s vaccine guidelines. â€œState law does notÂ recognize religious or personal belief exemptions for student immunizations,â€ but some medical exemptions will be considered.
â€œTonight weâ€™re making a statement that we believe in the science, we believe in the process and that we are serious about this, that we want to protect children,â€ School Board Vice President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said during the meeting, the Union-Tribune reported.
The district will have the right to fire or discipline employees who donâ€™t get vaccinated by Dec. 20. Students who are not vaccinated will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.
Among students who are 12 years and older,Â 64.6% have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 57.2% are fully vaccinated, according to data from the San Diego County Immunization Registry. Among employees, 80.7% have received at least 1 dose while 76.0% are fully vaccinated.
Over 1,650 people requested to speak at Tuesdayâ€™s school board meeting in protest of the mandate, with only 83 requesting to speak in favor of a mandate.
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