San Diego school is 1st in county to mandate vaccine for kids 12 and up

Coronavirus

SAN DIEGO — A school in downtown San Diego has become the county’s first to require students provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend classes in person.

Urban Discovery Academy, a 600-student public charter school, will ask that kids 12 and older get their shots by late November. Students will have the option to convert to online learning at that point if they have not. There will be no religious exemptions but medical exemptions will be permitted with a note from a doctor, the school says.

Shawn Loescher, the CEO of the Urban Discovery school system, will spend the next several weeks meeting with parents online and bringing forward medical experts to discuss the decision.

“We are demonstrating our steadfast belief that this additional vaccination requirement is in the best interest of student health, well-being, and learning,” Loescher said in a statement. “Throughout this pandemic, we have demonstrated resilience, innovation, and a focus on what is best for children. This decision is based on science and is the result of coordination and consultation with public health experts in the County of San Diego`s Health and Human Services Agency.”

The FDA has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in kids over 12 years old, and health regulators are now reviewing clinical trials for younger children.

While Urban Academy is the first in the region to require the COVID-19 vaccine, San Diego Unified School District requires all students under 18 to be immunized against certain diseases unless they are exempt for medical reason, following state law. The existing requirements include shots for polio and hepatitis B.

The district will discuss a possible COVID-19 vaccine mandate for eligible students and staff at its board meeting Sept. 28. That’s raised the threat of a lawsuit from the parent group Let Them Breathe, which has fought against mask requirements in schools, over “students’ rights to choice and to access their in-person education.”

Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, has already approved a vaccine mandate for students.

While kids appear less likely to get severely ill from COVID-19, roughly 5.5 million children in the U.S. have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatriacs.

In an interview with FOX 5 last month, Dr. John Bradley, the medical director of infectious disease at Rady Children’s Hospital, laid out why he believes parents should get their kids the shot as soon as they are eligible.

“As with all of these vaccines, there is an extensive testing procedure the FDA uses for safety and efficacy,” he said. “Safety is always a prime concern of the FDA for any product they authorize or approve.”

“If I was a parent, I would worry much more about the long-term effects of the virus infection than with (side effects of) the vaccine,” Bradley added.

Read more of the FDA’s vaccine guidance for kids on their website.

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