Michael Burke and Diana Lambert
August 23, 2021
Full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine Monday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will likely trigger more vaccine mandates, especially at California community colleges this fall.
California’s public university systems, the University of California and California State University, already chose to require students and staff to be vaccinated this fall without waiting for FDA approval of one of the existing vaccines. Some community colleges across the state did the same. But most of California’s 115 campus-based community colleges have not yet implemented such mandates, and several explicitly said they were waiting for one of the vaccines to receive full approval.
It’s not clear what the full FDA approval will mean for California’s K-12 schools. The full approval of the Pfizer vaccine is for people 16 and older. It remains authorized for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15. No vaccine is available yet for children under 12. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order that gives districts until Oct. 15 for all teachers and staff to be vaccinated or tested weekly. The measure has the support of the California Teachers Association, which is the state’s largest teachers union, and other employee unions.
Now that the Pfizer vaccine has been fully approved, the state chancellor’s office overseeing California’s community colleges expects “more colleges to adopt vaccine mandates,” said Rafael Chávez, a spokesman for the chancellor’s office.
The chancellor’s office has already encouraged colleges across the state to implement those mandates, but ultimately cannot compel them to do so. Those decisions are left to the locally elected governing boards that run California’s 73 community college districts.
The Los Angeles Community College District, by far the largest district in the state, is among the community college districts that may now move forward with a new mandate.