Los Angeles schools put safety above politics with a vaccine requirement. It's time for the nation to follow

A person receives a bandage after the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic in Los Angeles in August.

Dr. Smita Malhotra is a parent, author and the medical director of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)Many school boards are often better known for disagreements than mutuality. But in Los Angeles, our school board and superintendent are unified in acting on their collective responsibility to protect students against rising child cases of Covid-19.

In recent weeks, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has rolled out several policies to ensure a safe return to the classroom, including mandatory mask wearing, weekly testing for students and staff and a requirement that district employees are fully vaccinated by October 15.
And now, those policies also include a vaccine requirement for all eligible LAUSD students. After a unanimous Board of Education vote, children ages 12 and older are required to be fully vaccinated by the end of the year, while students with qualifying exemptions will have the option for an independent learning program.
    As the medical director for the Los Angeles Unified School District, my No. 1 priority is to put the health, safety and well-being of children first. And as a pediatrician, I understand that vaccines are one of the greatest advancements of modern medicine. The reason why those of us parenting in the United States don't have to worry about diseases like diphtheria, smallpox or polio in our children is because of vaccines. Lastly, as a mother of two children who are under the age of 12 -- including one second-grade student enrolled in LAUSD -- I have first-hand knowledge of the concerns and challenges facing many parents whose children are too young to be vaccinated.
      Los Angeles Unified is the country's second-largest school district, serving more than 600,000 students. But it is the first major school district in the nation to require the vaccine for in-person learning. This bold decision by our school board is sound and backed by science. It is one that I hope will spark a trend across the country and the world that emboldens social responsibility. Our school board and superintendent understand that vaccinations will bring back in-person learning in the safest way possible, and more importantly, that it's the right thing to do for communities and children, especially for those children, like my own, who are too young to receive a vaccine.
        The LAUSD requirement couldn't have arrived at a better time. Across the country this summer, we've seen more and more children hospitalized due to Covid-19. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as of September 9, more than 5 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 243,000 cases added in the past week. This isn't just happening bec