As you no doubt know, the FDA recently gave emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year old children. Shortly after, the CDC recommended the vaccine for all eligible children.
As you are also aware, in August, CAIS made the decision to require all employees to be fully vaccinated, and we achieved a 100% compliance rate in September. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been approved for 12- to 18-year-old children since the beginning of the school year, and although CAIS did not require eligible students to be vaccinated, 97% of CAIS students who are 12-years-old and older are now fully vaccinated.
“In August, CAIS made the decision to require all employees to be fully vaccinated, and we achieved a 100% compliance rate in September.”
Just over a month ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared that all school children (public and private) will need to show proof of vaccination as a condition for attending school as soon as the vaccine receives full authorization, which is expected by July 2022. The City and County of San Francisco announced this week that in the next several weeks the mandate requiring proof-of-vaccination that covers a wide array of activities including indoor dining and exercise will be extended to 5- to 11-year-olds. It appears that after living for almost 20 months with COVID-19, San Francisco is inching toward near-full vaccination.
As I have mentioned before, the CAIS Pandemic response Advisory Team has for several weeks been discussing the relative benefits of requiring all CAIS students aged 5-years-old and older to be fully vaccinated. I have been consulting with our school’s legal counsel who has advised me that, similar to our decision about employees, EUA status allows the school to require the vaccine for students. Today the Advisory team met again, and for reasons I will enumerate and explain below, CAIS will be requiring all eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“CAIS will be requiring all eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Throughout the pandemic we have operated with swiftness, decisiveness, transparency, and—most importantly—in accordance with scientific evidence and public health guidance. Our planning and decision-making has always placed the health and safety of the community above all else, and we have frequently entreated our community to act in ways to protect the health of all of us. The community has responded brilliantly, and we have had no cases of in-school transmission, record low employee turnover, increased enrollment in 2021-22, and many external and internal assessments show our students continued learning in both Chinese and English through the pandemic. A decision to require vaccination of all eligible students is completely consistent with this track record.
I want to acknowledge that there are those of us who may feel conflicted about their children receiving this vaccine, and I want to validate these feelings—I take it as a given that all parents want to keep their children healthy and safe, and that whatever they feel about the vaccine, it is because they want to do right by their children.
However, It is also true that in July 2022—no matter how parents feel—all California K-12 students, including CAIS students, will be required to be vaccinated as a condition for attending school, similar to MMR or TDAP vaccinations. We see no benefit in waiting an additional eight months, and in fact by getting a fast and early start we can protect one another against a predicted winter wave as temperatures drop and people spend more time indoors.
We have faith in the scientists and public health experts who have approved and endorsed this vaccine after rigorous research and testing. There are no authorities whose opinions or advice is more credible, and CAIS does not engage in second guessing experts.
“We have faith in the scientists and public health experts who have approved and endorsed this vaccine after rigorous research and testing. There are no authorities whose opinions or advice is more credible, and CAIS does not engage in second guessing experts.”
The school is working on details around implementing this decision. We will be announcing a timeline within which we will expect all students to show proof of vaccination unless they have a documented severe allergy to the COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components (CAIS acknowledges available exemptions under the law and will be announcing a strict process for applying for exemptions in the near future). Our vaccination timeline will allow for the inconveniences of making appointments for children and provide time for families to consult with their pediatricians and have questions answered about the vaccine. The school will also be announcing generous accommodations for children who are absent for vaccination appointments or due to vaccination related side-effects. As with MMR and TDAP vaccines, CAIS will be keeping records of every student’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
In order to support our families for whom this decision may not be entirely welcome, CAIS will be hosting an online town meeting on Tuesday, November 16 at which parents will be able to ask vaccine related questions to the physicians on our Pandemic Response Advisory Team: Drs Ben Lui, Monique Schaulis, Lisa Wu, and Jean Yuan. Interested parents also may want to register for an online conversation with UCSF experts on COVID-19 vaccines and children next Wednesday, November 10. If there is a family that wishes to speak directly with a physician on our Advisory Team, they have graciously volunteered to talk one-on-one; please write directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to request such a meeting.
Please stay tuned for more details of the school’s implementation of this decision. In the time being, I encourage you to make your appointments as soon as you are able to have your child vaccinated. On behalf of our teachers, I want to express my deep gratitude for your cooperation and support. We have gotten to where we are by following science and taking care of one another.
Let’s continue the good work, 团结就是力量 we’re stronger together.