New bill would require COVID-19 vaccine for all CA kids K-12, remove personal belief exemption

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A newly proposed bill aims to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations children must have to attend school.

The bill, if signed into law, would overrule Gov. Gavin Newsom's statewide mandate.

State Senator Dr. Richard Pan is proposing the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act which would require all students K-12 to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Newsom's mandate does not require the vaccine until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves the shot for children 12 and older.

RELATED: California proposal would let children age 12 and older get vaccines without parents' consent

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is fully approved for ages 16 and older, and there is an emergency authorization in place for kids five to 15.

The governor's mandate also allows parents to opt their child out of the vaccine for personal beliefs, among other reasons.

"The Keep Schools Open and Safe Act removes a mandatory personal belief exemption so that our state public health officer is able to take action to increase school vaccination rates to protect students and the community," said Dr. Pan.

The newly proposed bill would require all medically eligible school children to be vaccinated for COVID-19, regardless of approval from the FDA.

It would also remove the option to opt out due to personal belief.

Right to Life of Central California Executive Director John Gerardi says the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is proving vaccines don't necessarily stop the spread.
He says the bill, which would also remove the personal belief exemption for parents, is doing a disservice.

"They are legitimate, ethical concerns and they deserve to be treated as such," said Gerardi

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"High vaccination rates, along with testing, masks and other safety measures, to halt Covid spread, keeps our schools open and keeps them safe." Dr. Pan said at a press conference Monday.

The only way children would be allowed to attend school without the vaccine is if parents had a medical exemption for their child.

Booster shots are not currently discussed in the bill.

Sara Gray has an 11-year-old and 6-year-old in the Clovis Unified School District.

She'll also have a 5-year-old starting school in the fall and isn't opposed to vaccines, but doesn't think she should be forced to vaccinate her children against COVID-19.

"The state of California is saying, 'We're in charge. You don't have rights.'" said Gray.

She says, if the bill is signed into law, she's planning to home school her children or put in them in a private school that is not state-funded.

If signed into law, the new requirements would go into effect on January 1, 2023.

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