FILE - COVID-19 vaccine

(The Center Square) – California will become the first state to require students be inoculated against COVID-19 once they turn age 12.

Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed Friday what he had hinted at earlier in the week: all students age 12 and older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to receive in-person instruction.

“[California] will require our kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine to come to school,” Newsom tweeted. “Our schools already require vaccines for measles, mumps and more. Why? Because vaccines work. This is about keeping our kids safe [and] healthy.”

Newsom said the change would go into effect after full FDA approval. His executive order does not appear to apply to the state's nonpublic schools. 

The change follows three of California’s larger school districts – Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified and San Diego Unified – in requiring students to be vaccinated before they are welcomed into a classroom. 

Friday's announcement came two weeks after Newsom soundly defeated a recall election Sept. 14. 

"All the data suggests that our kids are safe from this virus and don’t need to be vaccinated," State Assembly Member James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, tweeted. "This has always been done by the Legislature not [executive order]."

State officials told the nonprofit CalMatters that students whose parents refuse to vaccinate their children would be forced to participate in independent study. 

While full approval for the COVID-19 vaccine could come as soon as this year, students would have until the following semester to be fully vaccinated. 

California, as well as most other states, requires students have their measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations verified before going to school.

State data said 70% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated, which is one of the highest percentages in the country. 

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.