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Some Parents, Teachers and Students Gather to Protest California's Proposed Statewide Student Vaccine Mandate

California's COVID vaccine mandates for students won’t take effect until the school term that starts after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's full approval for the vaccine..

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Participants in school walkouts across California on Monday protested statewide vaccine requirements for teachers and the statewide student vaccine mandate announced at the beginning of the month.

At the state Capitol in Sacramento, more than a thousand people gathered on the building's steps in protest of the mandate, announced earlier this month, that will make California the first state in the country to say it will require the COVID-19 vaccine for schoolchildren once it receives full federal approval.

Some parents at the protest took their children out of school for the day, part of a walkout effort organized by COVID vaccine mandate critics. Some carried signs that read, “My children won’t be a science experiment to make you feel safe,” and “My body, my choice.”

Toni Guinyard/NBCLA
One of many walkouts across the state of California, teachers and parents protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Van Nuys on Oct. 18, 2021.

The California mandate won’t take effect until the school term that starts after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's full approval for the vaccine. The mandate would be phased in starting with seventh-12th grades, followed after by students in K-6th grades.

Pfizer's vaccine has full FDA approval for those 16 years and up, and is offered to those as young as age 12 under an emergency use authorization.

California has one of the highest vaccine rates in the nation. More than 84 percent of residents 12 and older have received at least one COVID vaccine shot. Seventy-two percent are fully vaccinated.

The walkouts come on the first day that LAUSD's vaccine mandate officially prevents any unvaccinated district employee from working.

Friday, Oct. 15 was the deadline for LAUSD employees, including teachers, to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines. Those who did not receive at least one dose will not be able to return to work, officials have said.

There were indications from district officials that, so long as information was uploaded before Monday, employees with at least one dose could continue working. LAUSD also held walk-in vaccination clinics at six local district offices over the weekend, in an effort to vaccinate more employees.

Toni Guinyard/NBCLA
The walkout protests on Oct. 18, 2021 occurred on the first day that LAUSD employees without at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine were not allowed to work on campus.

Participation has been high among LAUSD workers. Overall compliance with the mandate is 95% or higher, with 97% of administrators, 97% of classroom teachers and 95% of classified supervisors loading their vaccination status into the district's Daily Pass system as of Friday.

But the moment has now arrived, and employees who have not done so are being told they cannot work Monday.

A preview of the day's walkout protests came over the weekend, when a group demonstrated outside the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District headquarters.

"Most of us here have applied for religious exemptions," said Jamie Aakhus, a teacher with Hacienda La Puente Unified. "They were all denied. They didn't even try to legally, reasonably accommodate us."

LAUSD issued a statement about the mandate on Friday.

"As part of Los Angeles Unified's commitment to provide the safest possible environment in which to learn and work, employees must receive one dose of the vaccine by October 15, 2021 to continue to report to work, and not be subject to separation from District service as long as they receive the second dose by November 15, 2021," a district spokesperson said.

Thousands of employees have yet to get a first dose at this point. Patrick Healy reports Oct. 12, 2021.

After Friday's deadline, the unvaccinated can return to work as soon as they get their first dose so long as they do so by Oct. 31, thanks to negotiations by SEIU Local 99, the union representing bus drivers, food service workers and custodians.

Those negotiations also moved the deadline for full vaccination back to November.

"We care deeply about all of our employees," LAUSD said Friday. "We appreciate everyone's commitment to maintaining the safest possible environment for the students and families we serve."

Toni Guinyard/NBCLA
A protest against vaccine mandates in Van Nuys, California. In August, CA became the first state to mandate that all teachers get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing. It was also the first state to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students, once the vaccine received full FDA approval.
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