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Vaccine or No School? California’s New COVID Bill Forces Student Vaccinations

On Jan. 24, California Senator Richard Pan proposed Senate Bill 871, which would require grade school children, K-12, to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. Also known as the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act, California would add the newly found vaccine to the state’s official list of required school vaccinations. If this happens, the COVID-19 vaccine would join the lineup of other school-mandated immunizations that fight against diseases. Some of these diseases include measles, whooping cough and polio, just to name a few. The only accommodations made under this bill would be for students who have a medical condition, which would exempt them from this mandate.

However, if you are not a part of this narrow percentage of exemptions, the vaccine will indeed be required to attend school in person. The so-called ‘personal exemption option’ will no longer be available.

In a press conference, Pan mentions how he believes that the only efficient way to handle this pandemic and keep schools safe is to have an accelerated rate of COVID-19 vaccinations. He also includes that students and faculty should wear masks the whole school day. “As a pediatrician, parent, and legislator, I’m committed to giving the public confidence and certainty that we are working to prevent or slow down the next Coronavirus surge,” Pan says. He added that he has great hope for his bill which will allow schools to stay open during the pandemic and keep children from getting sick.

His COVID-19 bill proposal comes shortly after California Senator Scott Wiener’s bill was proposed last Thursday, Jan. 10. His bill was focused on giving children, ages 12 and older, the personal choice on whether they wanted to be vaccinated or not. With Wiener’s proposal, parents would essentially be “laissez-faire” as they would have no say in their child’s bodily decisions.

As you could imagine, these COVID-19 bills have already sparked outrage amongst various groups, especially parents, who believe that they should have consent on vaccinations that their child receives. They believe that this law would infringe upon their rights as parental guardians and is an overstep by the government. An organization in particular called “Let Them Choose” has expressed their objection to this proposed mandate. “We are absolutely disappointed in this and vehemently opposed. This is not a bill that should be going through the legislature,” parent and founder Sharon McKeeman says.

To add to the outrage this past week, conservative politicians have already announced their stance on these vaccine bills and have affirmed their commitment to vote against them when the opportunity arises.

Currently, the only obstacle stopping these bills from full development is the fact that the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not fully approved the vaccine for children 12 and up. The mandate, however, will take effect upon authorization.

While both COVID-19 bills have a long way to go before they are officially law, if a majority votes in favor of them this year, California schools could be witnessing this change as early as January 2023.

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Leann Taylor is a student at Florida State University who's currently pursuing a double major in Marketing and Advertising. In her free time she loves making jewelry, taking pictures, eating anything sweet, and traveling!
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