California first US state to mandate Covid-19 vaccines for schoolkids

California will become the first US state to mandate statewide Covid-19 vaccinations for schoolchildren, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday (Oct 1), as a Reuters tally showed the United States topping 700,000 deaths.

“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella – there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for Covid-19,” the governor said at a news conference.

Newsom said the schools mandate could be enacted as early as January, once the US Food and Drug Administration fully approves inoculations for their age groups. California is the most populous US state.

The United States has reported an average of more than 2,000 deaths per day over the past week, representing about 60 per cent of the peak in fatalities in January, a Reuters analysis of public health data showed.

The United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and deaths, accounting for 19 per cent and 14 per cent of all reported infections and fatalities, according to the Reuters tally. Globally, the pandemic is set to surpass five million deaths.

While national hospitalisation numbers have fallen in recent weeks, some states, especially in the south of the country, are bucking that trend to record big rises, putting pressure on healthcare systems.

Public health officials say the state’s strict Covid-19 public health orders helped to slow the transmission of the virus in recent weeks.

On Friday, the transmission map tracker of the US Centres for Disease and Prevention showed California with the lowest weekly case rate in the country. Amid a national surge in Covid-19 cases fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant leading to serious illness and death mostly among unvaccinated people, several large school districts in California already have mandated Covid-19 vaccines for some students.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest, requires them for children over the age of 12, for whom the FDA has authorised their emergency use.

Public schools in San Diego will require vaccines for students over the age of 16 in December, and in Hoboken, New Jersey, students must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for the virus.

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