Vaccine COVID children
Spraya Yamini, 10, holds her father Afshin’s hand as she receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease at Rady’s Children’s hospital vaccination clinic in San Diego, November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A statewide mandate for all school students aged 12 and over to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be delayed until at least July 2023, state health officials announced Thursday.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the policy in October, he said it would not take effect as a requirement to attend classes until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full authorization to the vaccine for use on children aged 12 and over.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of April 6, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for use in those aged 5-17. The FDA has yet to authorize use of the Moderna or Johnson and Johnson vaccines for those under 17.

“To ensure sufficient time for successful implementation of new vaccine requirements, California will not initiate the regulatory process for a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the 2022-2023 school year and as such, any vaccine requirements would not take effect until after full FDA approval and no sooner than July 1, 2023,” according to a statement issued Thursday by the California Department of Public Health.

State Public Health Director Dr. Tomás Aragón said that despite the delay, he still “strongly encourages” all eligible residents – including children – to get the shots.

Vaccinations are available for everyone aged 5 and older, but thus far only under an emergency use authoritization

Some districts already had taken action for the coming school year, ahead of the state’s Thursday action.

Last month, San Diego Unified School District board members voted unanimously to carry out the district’s student COVID-19 vaccination requirements for the 2022-23 school year.

The Los Angeles Unified School District imposed a COVID vaccine mandate of its own, although it will not be formally instituted until at least this fall. Despite that delay, the district reported recently that 90% of its students aged 12 and older have been vaccinated.

– City News Service and staff reports