California should mandate vaccines for both students and teachers, said Tony Thurmond, state superintendent of public instruction, at a press conference Friday.
“Obviously, I think a mandate would be helpful because vaccines save lives and we should have vaccines in place to help save lives,” Thurmond said. “In the meantime, I think we need to be as focused as we can on how we help to educate people about getting a vaccine.”
Thurmond said state legislators have discussed authoring a bill to mandate vaccinations.
Currently children younger than 12 are not eligible to get vaccinated, although health officials have indicated that a vaccine for children could be available by the end of the year.
On Wednesday, California became the first state in the nation to require teachers and other school staff to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 or to be tested weekly.
Thurmond said vaccinating as many eligible people as possible is key to schools reopening this school year and staying open.
Increasing the urgency is the spread of the more contagious delta variant, which has increased the number of hospitalizations of children under 18.
This week Thurmond held several events across the state to encourage adults and children 12 and older to get vaccinated. Wednesday evening he hosted a virtual town hall on vaccinations that he said reached over 50,000 people.
The California Department of Education also plans to send letters to school districts and parent organizations asking them to share information about vaccines.
“This is becoming a crises of the unvaccinated,” Thurmond said. “We want to make sure everyone knows how to get a vaccine. “