The board of the San Diego Unified School District unanimously voted Tuesday night to implement a vaccine mandate for all staff and eligible students that will not allow for religious exemptions.
All staff and students 16 and older will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 20 to attend school in person, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the school board headquarters ahead of the meeting.
“Tonight we’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,” school board vice president Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said during the meeting.
The school district cited research from seven University of California San Diego experts who supported a vaccine mandate.
“Rates of COVID are going up in children. Consistent with current California law, religious or personal belief exemptions should not be allowed,” Dr. Mark Sawyer of UC San Diego wrote in the district’s vaccine guidelines.
“Obviously we mandate many vaccines for school to prevent infectious diseases that are transmitted in schools and COVID clearly is one of these,” Sawyer said.
“The non-pharmacologic measures (e.g. masks, ventilation, cohorting) are not going to be sufficient to prevent some transmission.”
The district’s guidelines state that those who do not get the vaccine will have to participate in remote learning and students under 16 will have to test for COVID-19 regularly before the vaccine is approved for their age group.
“State law does not recognize religious or personal belief exemptions for student immunizations,” according to the guidelines, but some medical exemptions will be considered.
The district will have the right to fire or discipline employees who do not get vaccinated by the deadline.
Students who are not vaccinated will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.
Among students 12 years and older, almost 65 percent have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 57 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Union-Tribune.
Among employees, over 80 percent have received at least 1 dose, while 76 percent are fully vaccinated.
Over 1,650 people requested to speak against the mandate at Tuesday’s school board meeting; only 83 requested to speak in favor of the mandate.
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