Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference at James Denman Middle School in San Francisco, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. Photo by Jeff Chiu of AP News.

Gov. Newsom makes California the first state to have a vaccine mandate for students

Country Day will comply with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new vaccine mandate that will require all students and faculty members in eligible age groups to be fully vaccinated. This mandate will affect both public and private schools, with medical and personal beliefs exemptions.

The mandate could take effect on January 1, 2022 or July 1, 2022, based on federal vaccine approval for the age groups.

“If the state mandates that every student must be properly vaccinated to come to school, they can either come to school or they can’t. There isn’t an in-between unless there is a medical reason or a religious exemption,” said Head of School Lee Thomsen.

If students aren’t vaccinated, they’ll have to do independent study, Thomsen said.

Sophomore Aiden Cooley believes the school should provide teaching over Zoom and in-person learning.

“People pay a lot of money to come to this school, so they should do Zoom learning,” Cooley said. 

Thomsen says this type of teaching would be ineffective because it divides the teacher’s attention and effort between two separate classes.

Junior Brynne Barnard-Bahn said the school has the right to not offer remote learning.

“You are free to choose not to get the vaccine, but you also choose to face the consequences,” she said. “And if students don’t get vaccinated, they’ll just have to do independent study.”

The mandate will allow students and faculty members who have pre-existing medical conditions or religious beliefs to be exempt from the vaccine.

As for campus safety, biology teacher Kellie Whited trusts the vaccine will help keep people safer in and out of school.

“While no vaccine is going to be able to prevent everyone from ever getting COVID-19, the vaccine is incredibly effective at preventing hospitalization and death,” Whited said. “We all need to do our part to protect our community.”

Wells is also confident that the vaccine will help in campus security.

“I think it’s a very important layer to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the consequences of a positive case,” Wells said.

Barnard-Bahn hopes everyone on campus will get the vaccine.

“If everyone gets vaccinated then campus will be safer, and if everyone in California gets vaccinated, we can prevent future variants from happening,” she said.

Tian Li, mother of junior Felix Wu, doesn’t trust the vaccine because of how quickly it was developed and the fact that it’s the same medicine for everyone.

“The vaccine is considered an experimental injection,” Li said. “And everyone has a different body. I practice traditional Chinese medicine, and I have never given different people the same medicine.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine is considered safe and effective.

It has met the Food and Drug Administration’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support approval or authorization of a vaccine, according to the CDC website.

Wells said that there isn’t a con that can outweigh the pro.

Others don’t like government mandates for vaccines.

“It’s good for everyone to be vaccinated, but I understand how people feel when the government is overstepping their bounds by making us get vaccinated,” Cooley said. “It’s unconstitutional because the government is going against a personal right.”

According to Thomsen, pushback from parents and students won’t matter because it is a state government mandate.

Barnard-Bahn agrees, but she expects there will be disapproval.

“There will be backlash from people who don’t want the vaccine and who are against any kind of governmental control, but people reacted the same exact way to seat belts when they were first required. So this kind of thing isn’t anything new,” Barnard-Bahn said. “The sooner everybody can get the vaccine, the sooner we can prevent this virus from getting worse.”

To read more about Gov. Newsom’s vaccine mandate online, visit:

— By Emily Cook and Ishaan Sekhon

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