(KGTV) – A proposed bill would require all California students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Under legislation proposed by state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the COVID-19 vaccine would be added to the list of required immunizations for California K-12 students.
Pan was joined by San Diego Unified School District leaders and members of the Los Angeles Unified School District as he laid out the benefits of the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act at a Monday news conference 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, we must make sure our students are vaccinated against COVID as well,” Pan said.
Pan said closing the personal belief exemption loophole for the "safe and effective" shots ensures that "every medically eligible student attending school in person is vaccinated."
Under state law, personal belief exemptions must be allowed for any newly required childhood vaccine unless the legislature passes a law banning them.
SD Unified Board Member Richard Barrera, who was at the press conference, said of the legislation, “We think it’s the right thing to do to keep students healthy, to keep staff healthy, and keep students in school, in person.”
San Diego Unified previously tried to put similar rules in place for schools within the district. However, the effort was followed by a legal battle after some advocates and local families disagreed with the move.
Courts ruled the district could not put a vaccine mandate in place, with one reason being the COVID-19 shot was not on the required list of vaccines for students.
“If this legislation is passed, and the intention is that this legislation would go into effect by Jan. 1 … If this legislation is passed, it eliminates the need for local school districts to take our own action. This eliminates the legal ambiguity,” Barrera said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a statewide school vaccination mandate, but it will not take effect statewide until a vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Pan's bill would require the shots even if they are only being offered under an emergency-use authorization by the FDA.
Anyone aged 5 and older is currently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
If passed, Pan’s bill would override Newsom’s mandate.
The Keep Schools Open and Safe Act builds on SB 277, also sponsored by 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.
"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," Pan said. "My legislation will give parents great certainty that their child is unlikely to get seriously sick and their school will stay open during COVID."
City News Service contributed to this report