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Bill Would Require California Students to be Vaccinated Against COVID

State Sen. Richard Pan announced  legislation that would prohibit families from being able to claim a personal belief exemption when it comes to California’s COVID-19 student vaccine requirement. Dr. Lynn Silver of PHI’s Safely Opening Schools program comments on the need for vaccinations to make schools safer for students and staff.

  • San Jose Mercury news
a child receiving a vaccination. CDC photo.

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, announced Monday, Jan. 24, legislation he’s sponsoring that would prohibit families from being able to claim a personal belief exemption when it comes to California’s COVID-19 student vaccine requirement, a mandate that could take effect as early as this fall.

Should it become law, Senate Bill 871, also known as the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act, almost assuredly would face legal challenges, as did a similar piece of legislation that Pan co-sponsored in 2015 which ended the personal belief exemption as an option for all other immunization shots required of public and private school children.

Pan said his bill would eliminate the current requirement that any vaccine mandate imposed by the state public health officer must allow for a personal belief exemption.

In practice, this would mean that students who do not get vaccinated against the coronavirus would no longer be allowed to attend school in person. Instead, they could enroll in independent study programs or be homeschooled.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in October announced that students in kindergarten through the 12th grade, whether enrolled in public or private school, would be required to get their COVID-19 shots after the vaccines receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though families could seek a personal belief exemption. That exemption can only be removed through legislative action.

Pan has proposed that his bill take effect Jan. 1, 2023. It currently does not specify whether the COVID-19 vaccines must have full FDA approval before the bill is implemented – a question which the senator said may need to be addressed later if the FDA hasn’t taken action before the new year.

Dr. Lynn Silver, director of Safely Opening Schools at the Oakland-based Public Health Institute, said at the press conference that just one in three children ages 5 to 11 in California have received one COVID-19 vaccine dose and that three in 10 teens have not gotten their first dose, though the vaccines have been available to them since May.

“It’s time to change this picture,” Silver said. “Strong school vaccine mandates work. They also increase equity in vaccination. And they will make it possible for more of our children — and more of our most vulnerable students — to be in school and to stay in school and reduce the terrible long term educational inequities from this pandemic.”

Click below to read the full article in the San Jose Mercury News.

Originally published by San Jose Mercury News

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