California to require COVID-19 vaccine for all school kids in new bill
California students may soon be required to be immunized for COVID-19 under a bill that would put the COVID-19 vaccine alongside the list of other immunizations required to attend a K-12 school in California. Senate Bill 871 would add COVID-19 vaccines to California’s list of required vaccines and students can only opt-out if they receive a rare medical exemption.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, California already has a temporary mandate in place to require students at all public and private schools to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, that mandate does not take effect until after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves the shot for children ages 12 and older, which has not happened yet. That mandate also has a broad “personal belief” exemption for parents who want to opt their children out of being inoculated. Also, in Los Angeles, L.A. Unified school district already had a vaccine mandate that was supposed to go into effect this month, but due to pushback from parents, they pushed the deadline to fall 2022. Many are hoping the new bill will actually enforce these current half-measures.
The new bill would add the COVID vaccine to the list of required immunizations, right up there with chickenpox and the MMR vaccine, and the only way to opt-out is with a medical exemption and not a “personal beliefs” one. Also, the new vaccine requirement would be in place even if Pfizer-BioNTech remains available through emergency authorization for ages 5 to 15, though the bill’s architects say they are still working out the specifics of that portion.
The authors of the bill said there’s overwhelming support from parents, many of whom are afraid to let their kids go to school, though the usual loud minority of “but but government overreach”-types will certainly push back. According to the LA Times, 73% of residents in the state have received both doses, 64% of children 12-to-17 are fully vaccinated, but only a quarter of 5-to-11-year-olds of Californians are fully vaccinated.
If this bill goes through, it would likely become a blueprint for other states to follow in its footsteps.