A California lawmaker known for tightening restrictions on school vaccine laws will propose a bill Monday to close a loophole in the state’s requirement that children receive Covid-19 shots.
State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) will announce Monday morning a bill to add Covid-19 vaccines to California’s list of required inoculations for attending K-12 schools, a move that would override Gov. Gavin Newsom’s scaled-back mandate from last 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 strengthened oversight of vaccine exemptions in 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 work group last week to focus on measures to increase vaccination rates and reduce misinformation. On Thursday, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 866, which would permit children 12 and older to choose to be vaccinated, including against Covid-19, without a parent’s consent or knowledge.
Both bills are expected to be met with strong opposition from groups that object to vaccine mandates and those who argue that medical decisions for children should be left to parents. Legislative attempts to change vaccine laws in schools have previously led to intense deliberations, prolonged protests and arrests.
“We should be having conversations about what’s best for our children and what’s best for the safety of schools,” Pan said.
California currently requires students at all public and private schools to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. However, that mandate, which was announced by Newsom in October, does not take effect until after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves the shot for children ages 12 and older. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is fully approved for ages 16 and older, and there is an emergency authorization in place for ages 5 to 15.
Newsom’s mandate is limited to grades seven through 12 and has a key caveat: Once the vaccine is fully approved, parents could still cite personal beliefs to opt their children out of being inoculated. The state must offer broader personal belief exemptions for any newly required vaccine unless it is added through a new law to the list of shots students must receive to attend school in California. State law requires a medical exemption to skip some or all of those vaccines for in-person attendance at K-12 schools.
Pan’s bill will go much further than Newsom’s mandate, starting with requiring all students from kindergarten through 12th grade to be vaccinated against Covid-19 beginning Jan. 1. That requirement would be in place even if Pfizer-BioNTech remains available through emergency authorization for ages 5 to 15, although Pan said that language is “something we’re still working out….”
The above comes from a Jan. 24 story in the San Diego Union-Tribune.