San Francisco schools head off vaccine requirements for kids

By Sydney Johnson and Ida Mojadad

By Sydney Johnson and Ida Mojadad

Examiner staff writers

As vaccine mandates roll out in schools and work settings across the country, San Francisco Unified School District is holding out.

That’s in large part due to the district’s high vaccination rate among students already. About 90% of youths ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated as of Sept. 10, according to The City’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

“I’m not so sure a mandate would make a difference to get to that last 10 percent,” said Dr. Naveena Bobba, deputy director of health for San Francisco. “Even without mandates, 12- to 17-year-olds have taken it upon themselves to make sure they’re protecting themselves and those around them.”

Health experts believe the district’s high vaccination rate among youth and employees is keeping cases among children low, even during the recent delta surge, which is now beginning to subside.

About 11.5% of recent positive cases in San Francisco were among children under 18, according to the Department of Public Health. And so far, San Francisco schools have had no COVID-19 outbreaks, defined as “three or more cases in non-related households in which the source of infection occurred at the school, and not another setting.”

By heading off a mandate, the district is also likely avoiding potential lawsuits, which already are being rumored in response to the student vaccine requirement recently announced in Los Angeles Unified, California’s largest school district. But vaccine requirements are already in effect across San Francisco. This summer, The City began requiring all of its employees to get vaccinated, as well as health care workers, police and firefighters. SFUSD employees are also required to get vaccinated or subject to weekly testing.

San Francisco was also one of the first in the nation to require individuals to prove their vaccination status before dining indoors or attending other indoor gatherings and is now considering expanding similar requirements to large outdoor events.

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a similar nationwide requirement for businesses with more than 100 employees, which will not have to require vaccinations or weekly testing for non-remote workers.

The move comes not long after California lawmakers pumped the breaks on a proposed law that would protect employers who require employees to get vaccinated or participate in weekly testing, as well as another bill that would require businesses to check for proof of vaccination for indoor events and gatherings.

As of Sept. 2, about 96% of SFUSD employees were fully vaccinated; however, the district was still waiting to hear back from about 2,400 of its 10,000 employees.

SFUSD will continue to monitor cases of COVID-19 and make adjustments to safety protocols as needed, said Laura Dudnick, spokesperson for the district.

“It’s extremely encouraging to see such high rates of vaccination among our staff,” said Superintendent Vincent Matthews. “Our vaccine requirement is one of the many ways we are keeping our students, staff and families safe.”

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