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Two teachers. Two different views on vaccine mandates. Hear them debate.
03:29 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The board of California’s second-largest school district unanimously approved a mandate Tuesday that all eligible students and staff must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by late December.

The measure impacts students ages 16 and older and employees of the San Diego Unified School District and says they must be fully vaccinated by December 20.

Students who are not vaccinated by the deadline will be barred from attending in-person classes and will be required to enroll in independent study programs. Unvaccinated students will also be prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities, according to the board.

Students and staff will be exempt from the new policy if they qualify for certain medical exemptions, according to the school board.

The vote comes after the Los Angeles Unified School District board voted earlier this month that all of its eligible students 12 and older must be fully vaccinated by December 19.

The surge in Covid-19 cases brought on by the highly transmissible Delta variant has meant an increase in hospitalizations among children – many of whom are not eligible for a vaccine yet. Nearly 27% of all Covid-19 cases reported nationwide in the week ending September 23 were in children, according to data published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics. And an average of 260 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 daily over the past seven days, according to Tuesday’s data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Less than half of US adolescents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data.

Despite the concerning rate of Covid-19 cases among children, school vaccine and mask mandates have been polarizing issues that triggered ongoing legal battles.

In San Diego, members of the school board emphasized they will take a staggered approach as they roll out the vaccination mandate for students depending on their age group and pending full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Until then, mandatory testing will be required for all unvaccinated students, the board said.

About 65% of all eligible students and 80% of eligible employees in the district are already at least partially vaccinated, the district said in a statement. The district is comprised of more than 121,000 students and has 13,559 employees, according to its website.

“San Diego Unified is working to ensure the highest-quality instruction in the safest environment possible for all students and employees,” the district said in a statement. “Strong scientific evidence shows that vaccinations are an essential part of protecting our communities.”