The Guardian: September 10, 2021 – The Los Angeles school district will require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus if they attend in-person classes in the nation’s second-largest school district.

The school board’s vote on Thursday makes Los Angeles by far the largest of a very small number of districts with a vaccine requirement.

Under the plan, students 12 and up who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities need to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. Others have until 19 December.

The decision marks one of the most aggressive measures taken by a major US school district to protect children from infections. The move was spurred in part by a recent rise in pediatric hospitalizations, according to the superintendent’s office.

The Los Angeles Unified school district was among the last of the nation’s largest districts to reopen to classroom instruction last spring.

The district, which enrolls more than 600,000 mostly Latino students, already tests all students and employees every week, requires masking indoors and outdoors and has ordered employees to be vaccinated.

The vote comes as new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles county have been decreasing but the rate of transmission remains high, according to the county department of public health. The department is expected to provide an update on Covid-19 cases and schools later on Thursday.

Most schools have not mandated vaccines for students. A nearby school district in Culver City, California, is requiring vaccinations for students 12 and up, and officials in Decatur, Georgia, are also considering doing so.

Some parents are eager to see all eligible students vaccinated. Lucy Rimalower, who has a kindergartener in the district, said she was relieved to see officials taking steps to try to protect her son until he is old enough to get his shot, and that also helped protect her parents, who are in their 60s and 70s and help her with childcare.

“This feels like following the precedent of all the other vaccines over time that have helped us to have a safer school environment, that let us feel like it’s safe to send our kids to school without getting chicken pox, polio, the mumps, measles, rubella, you name it,” she said.

Other parents oppose the move, and some went to the district office to protest. Bryna Makowka, who has a teenage son in the district, said it should be up to parents, not the board, to decide for their children.

“If you freely want to do it, by all means, go ahead. It is also my right not to, and to protect my son,” she said.

United Teachers Los Angeles supports the proposal and has urged the board to mandate student vaccinations since teachers were required to get the shots.

Cecily Myart-Cruz, the union’s president, called the move a “critical step” in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

Top Feature Photo: A mobile vaccination team visits a school campus in Los Angeles last month. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters