In summary

Gov. Gavin Newsom boasts that California is first state to require COVID-19 vaccinations of students, but there’s a smarmy tinge to his declaration.

Generations of California public school students have been required — by law — to be vaccinated against deadly diseases.

The list includes measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox, hepatitis, whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus.

Vaccination mandates have been tightened in recent years despite raucous opposition by those deluded into believing they are immoral or dangerous. In fact, the opposite is true. Unvaccinated children pose death threats to their classmates and ignoring that danger would be immoral.

Given that historic background, its grounding in medical science and the obvious peril of COVID-19, it makes perfect sense for California to add it to the list of mandatory vaccinations.

Gov. Gavin Newsom did so last week, declaring that when coronavirus vaccines become available for children, they must be immunized before attending public school.

“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella (so) there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19,” Newsom said. “Today’s measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom. Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

However, as with many of the governor’s pronouncements, the vaccination declaration has a somewhat smarmy tinge.

The headline on Newsom’s announcement declares that “California Becomes First State in Nation to Announce COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Schools,” underscoring his years-long obsession with boasting about being first to do something.

That tendency is particularly obvious here because, in fact, a first-in-the-nation vaccination announcement doesn’t necessarily mean that California will be the first state to have school kids immunized because everyone must wait for vaccines to be approved for children.

In other words, it was more of a political stunt than a real accomplishment.

Moreover, while Newsom is touting that California students will — someday — be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, he’s been less willing to crack down on public employees who have refused to get the shots even though they come into contact with the public.

In July, Newsom garnered nationwide media attention by announcing that all state employees would have to show proof of vaccination or submit to frequent COVID-19 testing. However, several public worker unions immediately demanded that any such requirement would be subject to contract negotiations.

Although the Newsom administration contended that he could bypass negotiations under the emergency powers he assumed 19 months ago to battle the pandemic, his human resources department has quietly backed down, agreeing to “suspend and conclude its vaccine verification program” and to bargain with unions officials over vaccine rules. Newsom’s retreat did not, of course, get the same kind of national media attention as his original announcement.

Guards and other state prison workers have been particularly reluctant to get vaccinated, despite multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons, and Newsom has been particularly reluctant to force the issue. Finally, a federal judge ordered that guards and other prison workers, who are only about 50% vaccinated, must get the shots or risk losing their jobs. He could do so because prison health services operate under a federal court order.

Strangely, while Newsom boasts about ordering mandatory school vaccinations, his administration opposed the federal order on prisons.

Maybe not so strange. Public employee unions, including the one representing guards, contributed millions of dollars to help Newsom fight off a campaign to recall him.

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Dan Walters has been a journalist for more than 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times...