New Bill Would Mandate COVID-19 Vaccine for All California Schoolchildren

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
January 25, 2022Updated: January 25, 2022

All California school students would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under legislation proposed Monday.

The proposed bill, titled the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act, would eliminate a personal belief exemption in school-based COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

State Sen. Richard Pan, a Democrat, introduced the legislation during a news conference at a Los Angeles school.

Pan, a pediatrician, said the law is needed to ensure that children are educated.

“Families across the state and country have faced disruption, anxiety, and trauma from this pandemic for now almost two years. Confidence and certainty are things we all long for,” said Pan, who represents parts of Sacramento and Yolo counties.

The legislation would build on a 2015 law that eliminated the personal belief exemption for all other childhood vaccinations required for schoolchildren.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in October announced the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine mandate for schoolchildren. But it likely won’t take effect until later this year and allows exemptions for medical reasons and personal beliefs.

According to Pan, only the Legislature may remove the personal belief exemption.

Assemblyman James Gallagher, a Republican, immediately announced he will oppose Pan’s bill.

“The government doesn’t want your family to have a choice. Government is in control. Either get vaccinated or get kicked out of school,” he said in a statement.

The proposed legislation comes after another bill was put forward that would allow children aged 12 and above in the state to be vaccinated without parental consent.

Currently, California children aged 12 to 17 can only be vaccinated with parental permission, unless the vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted disease.

“Vaccinations are an integral part of keeping our school communities safe and our commitment to health and safety remains a top priority,” Megan K. Reilly, interim superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said on Monday of the proposed bill.

“We should be having conversations about what’s best for our children and what’s best for the safety of schools,” Pan said.

“We need to make sure schools are safe so that all parents are comfortable sending their children to school,” added Pan. “And we want to keep schools open.”

Stefanie Fetzer, founder of Parents United 4 Kids, told the Los Angeles Times that Pan’s new bill shows “just how out of touch he is, both scientifically and politically.”

Fetzer noted that countries around the world are now moving to drop restrictions, eschew mandates, and are accepting that COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, is becoming endemic.

The Epoch Times has contacted Newsom’s office for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.