A California lawmaker known for tightening restrictions on school vaccine laws will propose a bill on Monday to close a loophole in the state’s requirement that children receive COVID-19 shots.
State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) will announce a bill Monday morning to add COVID-19 vaccines to California’s list of vaccines required to attend K-12 schools, a move that would override the reduced term of office. Governor Gavin Newsom over the past year.
“We need to make sure schools are safe so that all parents are comfortable sending their children to school,” said Pan, a pediatrician whose legislation has tightened oversight of vaccine exemptions over the past year. from previous years. “And we want to keep schools open.”
Pan’s legislation is the second major vaccine bill announced this year by a group of Democratic lawmakers who formed a task force last week to focus on measures to increase vaccination rates and reduce the disinformation. On Thursday, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 866, which would allow children 12 and older to choose to be vaccinated, including against COVID-19, without consent or knowledge of a parent.
Both bills are expected to meet strong opposition from groups who oppose vaccination mandates and those who argue that medical decisions for children should be left to parents. Legislative attempts to change vaccine laws in schools have already led to intense deliberation, protracted protests and arrests.
“We should have conversations about what’s best for our kids and what’s best for school safety,” Pan said.
California currently requires students in all public and private schools to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, that mandate, which was announced by Newsom in October, does not go into effect until after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves the vaccine for children 12 and older. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is fully approved for ages 16 and older, with emergency authorization in place for ages 5 to 15.
Newsom’s mandate is limited to students in grades seven through 12 and comes with a key caveat: Once the vaccine is fully approved, parents can still cite personal beliefs to prevent their children from being vaccinated. The state must offer broader personal belief exemptions for any newly required vaccine unless it is added by new law to the list of vaccines students must receive to attend school in California. State law requires a medical exemption to skip some or all of these vaccines for in-person attendance at K-12 schools.
Pan’s bill will go much further than Newsom’s mandate, starting with requiring all K-12 students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Jan. 1. This requirement would be in place even if Pfizer-BioNTech remains available via emergency clearance for 5 to 15 centuries, although Pan said the language is “something we are still working on.”
By adding COVID-19 shots to the list of state-required vaccines for college students, parents would need a medical exemption to skip those doses. Pan said issues surrounding COVID-19 vaccine recalls are not currently addressed in his bill.
“That’s one of the things we’ll have to sort out,” he said.
Pan’s proposed bill would also allow the California Department of Public Health to mandate vaccines in the future without requiring the state to offer personal belief exemptions.
On Friday, the school district‘s acting superintendents. Los Angeles Unified’s Megan Reilly and San Diego Unified’s Lamont Jackson urged legislative leaders to take “urgent action to enact a statewide vaccination mandate for public school students.” Last month, a San Diego County judge overturned a COVID-19 vaccine warrant for San Diego Unified students. Faced with its own litigation, LA Unified officials postponed enforcing its vaccine mandate until the fall.
In LA Unified, the state’s largest school district, infections remain near record highs, though rates have fallen and attendance has improved in the second week after students return from summer vacation. winter.
“The evidence clearly shows that vaccines help reduce the spread of infection, which will reduce transmission in schools and protect those who are medically vulnerable,” the superintendents wrote in a letter to legislative leaders. “The vaccine will also help reduce COVID-related absences and reduce the likelihood that schools will need to be closed in the event of an outbreak.”