SAN DIEGO — With coronavirus shots now going in the arms of children ages 5-11, many parents are wondering if a broader mandate is coming for local schools.
Vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds began Wednesday morning in San Diego County following the federal government’s approval of the use of Pfizer’s vaccine in the age group. Doses for the younger kids are a third of the amount given to teens and adults.
San Diego Unified Board President Richard Barrera joined FOX 5 Thursday morning to talk about how the school district is responding to the development, and when a new vaccine mandate might go into place.
“Mandates go into effect when there is full FDA authorization for the vaccine for a certain age group,” Barrera said. “We don’t have full FDA authorization yet for 12-year-olds or 5- to 11-year olds. So the mandate won’t be going into effect anytime soon for students in that age group.”
Barrera said it’s unclear when the government will give full approval of the vaccine for the new age groups. A mandate would go into effect the semester following approval.
“What that means for kids in this age group is we’re likely looking at next fall, next year.”
While the mandate for students over the age of 16 has seen some pushback, including a lawsuit filed by a 16-year-old Scripps Ranch High student’s family, Barrera said a lot of parents of younger kids were eager to get them protected against the virus.
To help make that happen, Barrera said the district is working with UC San Diego to bring mobile vaccine clinics to schools. He hopes they’ll be on campuses in the next few weeks before the Thanksgiving break.
“We’ll be sending out information to all parents in our district about where they can go to get the vaccines. Right now any of the Rady Children’s Hospital clinics, kids should be able to go to get the vaccine,” Barrera said.
The Dec. 20 deadline to have both shots complete is quickly approaching for the 16 and older group. Students who don’t comply with the requirement will be enrolled in a virtual academy or independent study program connected to their school, Barrera said.
“Online learning, we all know, is not the best option. We really want students to get vaccinated so that they can stay in school. Parents who continue to be hesitant, please go consult with somebody you trust,” Barrera said.
Like many other education and health professionals, Barrera encouraged hesitant parents to seek advice from licensed professionals, including pediatricians, doctors at community clinics or school nurses.
“The most important message is, parents should talk to people who they trust who have credibility on this issue,” he said. “It’s the best way to protect kids, it’s the best way to protect other people in the family. Kids can actually transmit the virus. So go ahead and take advantage of this opportunity and get your kids vaccinated.”