Legislation Introduced to Remove Personal Exemption Loophole for COVID School Vaccinations

Special to the Vanguard

Sacramento, CA – On Monday, Senator Richard Pan introduced the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act, to close the personal belief exemption loophole for school-based vaccination requirements for COVID-19.

The Keep Schools Open and Safe Act builds on SB 277, also sponsored by Senator Pan, which eliminated the personal belief exemption loophole for all other childhood vaccinations required for public and private school students when it became law in 2015. After passage of SB 277, vaccination rates dramatically increased for childhood diseases such as measles.

Governor Gavin Newsom has announced a statewide school vaccination mandate, but under state law, only the Legislature may remove the personal belief exemption.

“As the parent of two school students, I understand parents need confidence and certainty that their child’s school is safe and can be in-person. The most effective way to keep schools open and safe is to ensure the COVID vaccination rate of students and school staff is as high as possible in addition to masks, testing, and good ventilation to minimize infections,” said the bill’s author Senator Richard Pan who is also a pediatrician.

He added, “My legislation will give parents great certainty that their child is unlikely to get seriously sick and their school will stay open during COVID.”

On January 19, Senator Pan and six other legislators announced the formation of a legislative Vaccine Work Group to facilitate coordinated action to promote vaccines and science-based public health policy.

Wendy Bloom, a Registered Nurse working at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland for the last 35 years said, “All students deserve equal access to quality education regardless of their health status. Only through high vaccination rates will it be safe for my patients to attend school.”

“Keeping our students and employees as safe as possible has been a top priority for Los Angeles Unified during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Los Angeles Unified Board President Kelly Gonez and Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said. “We have maintained continuity of instruction while establishing the largest school-based COVID-19 testing program and keeping more than 1,400 schools open since August 16, our first day of school.”

He added, “The science is clear – vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19. Los Angeles Unified applauds the nearly 90 percent of our students aged 12 and older and their families who are in compliance with our vaccine requirement.”

Richard Barrera, a member of the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education said, “Local school districts are doing everything we can to keep our schools safe so that students can continue to learn in person.

“Our educators and staff are vaccinated,” he said. “We are making vaccines easily available and accessible to our students. We welcome this necessary legislation by our state leaders to help end the roller coaster of the pandemic and allow schools to go back to focusing on what we do best – educating our students.”

California Medical Association President Robert E. Wailes, M.D. said, “As COVID cases and hospitalizations of children are rising due to more infectious variants, we know that vaccination is our greatest defense. Too many children are not yet fully vaccinated and are left vulnerable to this serious disease. California needs policies to minimize the threat of COVID-19 to children, and the California Medical Association appreciates the leadership of Dr. Richard Pan for working to protect children’s health and their right to safe schools.”

Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, Director of Safely Opening Schools at the Public Health Institute said, “Having everyone in the school community fully vaccinated is essential to making our schools safe for all. This bill is urgently needed so schools can go back full-time to what they do best – educating our children.”

Teens for Vaccines founder Arin Parsa said, “Requiring immunization against COVID-19 is how we keep schools open and safe. While closing schools at the beginning of the pandemic was necessary, we now have safe and highly effective vaccines. LAUSD and SDUSD prove that mandates work, that high vaccination rates keep schools open and safe. Teens for Vaccines is excited to support the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act.”

Alvin Lee, Executive Director of GENup said, “Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, student learning has been widely disrupted across the state. Not only have our students suffered physically, but also mentally and emotionally. We’ve seen virtual learning exacerbate those inequities – whether it’s access to mental health resources or unequal access to technological connectivity.

‘Despite recent returns back to in person schooling, surging COVID-19 cases are threatening schools once again back to virtual learning. As such, ensuring every student is vaccinated will be critical if we are to return to a sense of normalcy in our nation’s largest education system. The data is clear: vaccines work! As such, we urge legislators to pass the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act to protect our state’s 6 million students and to put student wellbeing and safety first!”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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1 Comment

  1. Keith Olson

    Governor Gavin Newsom has announced a statewide school vaccination mandate, but under state law, only the Legislature may remove the personal belief exemption.

    So Democrat Gov. Newsom demands school children vaccinations but if you’re a prison guard who donated to his recall election you aren’t mandated to get vaccinated.

    So should school children and their parents who don’t want vaccinations donate to Democrat Gov. Newsom?

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