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Los Angeles Unified School District, 2nd largest in the nation, to vote on vaccine mandate for students

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(LOS ANGELES) — The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education will vote Thursday on a vaccine mandate for all eligible students in the nation’s second-largest district.

The vote, slated for 2 p.m. local time, would be a landmark move for the district, which has over 600,000 students and operates 1,200 schools in the LA area.

If the resolution is approved, all students ages 12 and up must receive their first vaccine dose no later than Nov. 21 and their second dose no later than Dec. 19. Students who participate in in-person extracurricular programs will have to get a vaccine earlier, with a deadline for the first dose by October 3.

All other students must receive their first vaccine dose 30 days after their 12th birthday and their second dose eight weeks after their 12th birthday.

The district told ABC News in a statement: “Science clearly shows that vaccinations are an essential part of protecting our communities. Further details will be forthcoming after the vote.”

The majority of board members said they will approve the measure or are leaning toward it, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Under the proposal, all eligible students in the district would be required to be inoculated excluding those with “qualified and approved exemptions.”

The district said passing the proposal “will result in the safest school environment possible and minimize disruption to full-time, in-person instruction brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Children ages 12 and up are only eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Though the Pfizer vaccine was fully authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month, it remains under emergency use authorization for individuals 12 through 15.

The vote comes a week after LA County health officials said more than 5,200 COVID-19 cases were detected among K-12 students in the county over the past two weeks. The county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, called the number “sobering.”

The district’s COVID-19 testing dashboard shows 1,357 positive cases among students and staff and a staff and student case rate of 9.93 per 100,000 residents, significantly lower than the county case rate of 20.03 cases per 100,000 individuals.

So far in LA County, 60% of 12 to 15-year-olds have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 68% of 16 to 17-year-olds have received at least one dose, according to the county’s vaccine tracker.

Nationwide, pediatric hospital admissions remain at one of their highest points of the pandemic, with more than 2,200 children receiving care across the country for confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Additionally, the average daily COVID-19 case rate is now higher among children and adolescents ages 5 to 17 years than all adult age groups.

The move to mandate student vaccines is also supported by United Teachers Los Angeles union, which represents more than 30,000 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians.

The union said in a statement last week, “UTLA announced support for a vaccine mandate for eligible students … This aligns with UTLA support for the educator vaccine mandate implemented by LAUSD and will keep our schools safer as well as positively contributing to the higher community vaccination rates needed to reverse the surge in infections.”

LAUSD is already facing legal backlash for its robust COVID-19 safety measures currently in place, including requiring weekly testing for all students and employees, masks indoors and outdoors and requiring all employees to be vaccinated.

Passing a vaccine mandate may bring an onslaught of further legal challenges.

Mandates related to the pandemic, such as requiring face coverings in classrooms, have led to lawsuits and heated debates between school districts, parents and lawmakers, as in Texas and Florida.

Los Angeles would not be the first to impose a vaccine mandate.

It was already adopted by the Culver City Unified district with a Nov. 19 deadline to take effect, in anticipation that the FDA will grant full approval for school-aged students to get the vaccine, local Los Angeles ABC station KABC reported.

In the Oakland Unified School District, Sam Davis, the Vice President of the Board and Director of District 1, proposed a vaccine mandate at a board meeting Wednesday night. The proposal will be discussed at a Sept. 22 meeting with a potential vote, he told ABC News.

“Vaccination is key to keeping teenagers healthy, in school and learning, and keeping their families healthy as well,” he said during the meeting. “We’re lucky to live in a place with comparatively high vaccination rates. In Oakland, 73% of those aged 12-17 have received at least one dose, compared to less than 50% nationwide. So we’re doing well but we could do much better.”

It’s too soon to tell if other districts will follow suit.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference Thursday there’s no plans for a vaccine mandate for eligible students in the city, which has the largest school district in the nation.

“We just don’t think that’s the right thing to do … but teachers are mandated to,” he said Thursday. “We can keep any option on the table, but right now, no. We want every kid in school.”

Similarly in Chicago, which has the third-largest school district in the nation, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said a vaccine mandate for students would be “premature” during an Aug. 30 press conference.

“Obviously we don’t have a vaccine for children who that younger than 12, so it’s a little premature I think to be talking about that,” the mayor said.

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