SAN DIEGO (KGTV)- California students may be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
California already requires kids to get a long list of vaccinations in order to attend school. Now, State Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) wants the COVID-19 vaccine added to that list.
Pan, who is also a pediatrician, announced what he's calling the "Keep Schools Open and Safe Act" during a press conference Monday with school leaders and health professionals in Los Angeles.
"Given the tragically high number of people, those do include children and teens who suffered from death and disability from COVID 19," he said. "We must make sure our students are vaccinated against covid as well."
California's governor issued a mandate in October requiring all students to get the vaccine, but it doesn't go into effect until after the FDA fully approves the shot for children 12 and up.
Pan's bill would make the vaccine a requirement for all students in grades K through 12, even if the vaccine is still only approved through emergency use authorization for ages 5-15. The bill would also get rid of the personal belief exemption. Only exemptions for medical reasons would be permitted.
Sharon Mckeeman is a parent and founder of the groups "Let Them Breathe" and "Let them Choose."
"We are absolutely disappointed in this and vehemently opposed. This is not a bill that should be going through the legislature," McKeeman said. "Parents should have a choice over this very new vaccine."
McKeeman helped lead the group that sued to block San Diego Unified's vaccine mandate. A judge ruled school districts don't have the authority to add vaccines to the list without including a personal belief exemption. San Diego Unified is appealing the judge's ruling.
"We are not anti the COVID vaccine, but we're for choice in this extremely new vaccine, there's a bill being pushed forward when this is still not even FDA approved for the majority of children," she said. "That's because there are not long-term studies on this vaccine."
Monday San Diego Unified School Board Trustee Richard Barrera joined Senator Pan in LA to applaud the bill.
"It is unfathomable that when we have vaccines available that we know can protect our students, protect our educators, that we would simply look the other way for political reasons," Barrera said.
Monday, Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) issued the following statement in reaction to the announcement:
“Now it is clear. The government doesn’t want your family to have a choice. Government is in control. Either get vaccinated or get kicked out of school.
I am absolutely going to oppose this bill. This is wrong and an unconscionable overreach into the family over a virus that poses a very minimal threat to young children. The decision to vaccinate a child should be for the child and their parents to make alone.
Anyone who tells you this requirement aligns with historical vaccine protocols is lying to you. The current required vaccinations have been in use with full FDA approval for decades. The COVID vaccine has not.
Anyone who tells you that this requirement will ‘stop the spread’ or ‘keep schools open’ is lying to you. California has one of the highest COVID vaccination rates in the country and yet the virus is still spreading.
Rural schools will ultimately be the hardest hit by this new mandate. Enrollment will drastically decline, school district budgets will crumble, and the learning and social losses will be massive. We cannot let this happen."
If the bill is passed, it would go into effect on Jan. 1.