With the passing of the statewide vaccine mandate in California schools, San Leandro Unified School District and Alameda County are working on how to get students vaccinated and enforce the mandate. Officials in the district and county are putting a plan together for what the mandate will look like.
“It’s something that we will be facilitating based on what the state will dictate or the parameters around it,” Keziah Moss said, the Director of Communications for San Leandro Unified School District.
Because the mandate is coming from the state, most of the guidelines will be provided to school districts and communities by them.
San Leandro High School Principal, Dr. Ronald Richardson, said he is being told by the state that, “The Summer of 2022…students are going to be required to be vaccinated.”
While there is no definitive plan at the moment for how the mandate will be implemented, those at the district and county say that health care providers will play a big part, alongside vaccine clinics.
“We encourage families, particularly those who have health care providers…to contact their family doctors…that would be their first option to getting vaccinated,” said Michelle Smith McDonald, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Alameda County Board of Education. “Another option is that we are going to be having community based clinics and city based clinics that are going to be running with juvenile vaccines.”
The Alameda County Board of Education is working closely with San Leandro School District and other districts in the county. McDonald says that the county is working with districts to give students the opportunity to get vaccinated, and that they are prioritizing districts most in need to bring clinics and other non-healthcare ways for students to be vaccinated.
“I understand from looking at the data that there’s some access problems…We are doing our absolute best to get everyone the access needed for vaccinations,” said Moss. Moss echoed the statement that healthcare providers are a way to get students vaccinated, while also saying that the district is looking to hold more vaccine clinics for their students.
Moss and McDonald said they understand and know that there is some hesitancy in the community for children to get vaccinated, but say all students need to get vaccinated.
“I understand parents with young children have concerns, so I would ask those parents to talk to their pediatricians, talk to their health care providers, ask those questions needed to feel good about it,” McDonald said.
Dr. Richardson suggested that one reason behind hesitation on the vaccine is that there is a lack of information on it.
“I think people have a fear of taking the vaccination because they don’t have information or knowledge of the vaccine,” said Dr. Richardson, and that as a community, “Hopefully we can stand in solidarity as human beings to educate people.”
There will be exemptions to the mandate, but few.
“There will be medical exemptions and religious exemptions and for the moment there will be personal exemptions,” said McDonald.
The vaccine will most likely be part of the list of mandatory vaccines students need to attend school.
“There’s so many vaccinations in the past that students have had to get vaccinated to be in middle school and high school,” Dr. Richardson said.
While some districts in the county have decided to implement the mandate sooner than when the state will require, like Oakland Unified School District, Moss said, “That has not been in our discussion or planning.”
Students and teachers have been wondering whether the vaccine mandate will lead to the mask mandate being lifted.
“What we’re hearing from public health is that they are going to be on for the near future,” Moss said, but she doesn’t rule out the possibility once enough people have been vaccinated.
The vaccine mandate has the community wondering what the plan is and what this means for the future.
“As an employee of the district, I’m willing to do whatever it takes for us to get back to some sense of community,” Moss said.
McDonald said she believes that at the simplest level, “The safest healthy school environments are the ones where schools are vaccinated.”
Everyone who was interviewed stressed that they believed the vaccine was the best way to return to normal, and that it is the safest thing for the community.
“Individuals who are going to the hospital and are not recovering from COVID are not vaccinated,” said Richardson.
Information based on interviews in mid-November.