A bill requiring California students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will not advance, its sponsor said Thursday, marking the second major vaccination bill to be withdrawn this year at the state Capitol before its first vote.
State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said he would withdraw from consideration Senate Bill 871, which would have added COVID-19 vaccines to California’s list of vaccines required to attend K schools. -12, prerequisites that can only be skipped if a student receives a rare medical exemption from a doctor.
Without the bill, the state will continue with a less stringent COVID-19 vaccine mandate authorized last year by Governor Gavin Newsom, allowing parents to withdraw their children based on their personal beliefs.
The Democratic lawmaker introduced SB 871 in January, saying it would ensure schools can stay open while providing a safeguard for districts such as LA Unified that have struggled with their own mandates. The bill, however, faced familiar backlash from anti-vaccine activists and parents who said the state shouldn’t make medical decisions for their children.
Pan said the state must focus its efforts on improving access to COVID-19 vaccines and ensuring families have accurate information about the benefits of inoculation.
“Until children’s access to COVID vaccination is greatly improved, I believe a statewide policy requiring COVID vaccination in schools is not the immediate priority, although “This is appropriate safety policy for many school districts in communities with good access to vaccines,” Pan says.
Last month, Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) said she would stay action on the 1993 Assembly Bill, which would have required employees and independent contractors, in public and private workplaces, be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment unless they have an exemption based on a medical condition, disability or religious beliefs. Wicks cited improving pandemic conditions and opposition from public safety unions for withdrawing his bill.
Both bills were part of a larger package of laws introduced by Democratic lawmakers who formed a vaccine task force earlier this year. Bills that remain active include State Sen. Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 866, which would allow children 12 and older to be vaccinated without parental consent and the Assemblyman Act 1797 by Assemblyman Akilah Weber (D-San Diego), which would make it easier for California school officials to verify student immunization records by expanding access to a database of statewide vaccination.
Assembly Bill 2098 by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) is also moving forward, which would make it easier for the Medical Council of California to discipline doctors who promote misinformation about the COVID-19 by calling it unprofessional conduct.
“My colleagues on the Vaccine Task Force and I will continue to advance policies to protect Californians from preventable COVID illnesses,” Pan said.
Without the bill, California still plans to require students in all public and private schools to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But that mandate, announced by Newsom in October, only takes effect 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, and there are only an emergency clearance in place for 5-15 years, which is a lower standard than full clearance.
Newsom’s mandate is limited to students in grades 7-12 and allows parents to refuse to vaccinate their child against COVID-19 by allowing personal belief exemptions. The state is required to 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. .
Pan’s bill that won Thursday would also have changed future vaccination mandates for schoolchildren, limiting the instances in which personal belief exemptions would be allowed.
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), a critic of the vaccination mandate, called on Newsom to withdraw the state’s existing requirement after Pan withdrew his bill.
“Thanks to overwhelming opposition from California families, SB 871 has been defeated,” Kiley said in a statement. “This is a major victory for students and parents across California who have had their voices heard.”
Los Angeles Times