LAUSD Makes History With Student Vaccine Mandate

Los Angeles Unified has become the largest school district in the nation to require eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The school board passed a vaccine mandate for students without opposition on Sept. 9. Trustee Scott Schmerelson abstained, citing his ownership of stock in Pfizer.

Students 12 and older must meet the vaccine requirement according to the following schedule:

  • Students participating in any school-sponsored extracurricular activities: first dose by Oct. 3 and a second dose by Oct. 31
  • All other students 12 and up: first dose by Nov. 21 and second dose by Dec. 19

Vaccine exemptions will be permitted for medical conditions but not religious or personal beliefs. The mandate will affect some 225,000 students. In addition to traditional public schools, it impacts "co-located" charter schools on LAUSD campuses.

Experts lauded the district’s move. Odis Johnson Jr., executive director of the Center for Safe and Healthy Schools at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, said LAUSD’s move could be a national model that would “move us forward toward finally addressing students’ developmental, social and academic well-being.” State Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician, noted that children account for over a quarter of coronavirus infections right now.

The mandate has roiled anti-vaccination groups. Some parents showed up at the school board meeting with signs that read “Babies Lives Matter,” “Children Are Not Guinea Pigs,” and “Save Our Children.”

Health and school officials will have their work cut out for them as they try to educate parents and dispel misinformation about vaccines in children. Any existing vaccine skepticism will be compounded by the low rates of hospitalization and death in children who contract COVID-19.

The new mandate solidifies LAUSD’s standing as one of the most aggressive districts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The nation’s second-largest school district now has a mask mandate both indoors and out, weekly testing for all students, and mandatory vaccinations for all staff and eligible students.