New Bill Could Require COVID-19 Vaccine For California Students

Kamari Esquerra

“In my opinion, vaccines are safe and effective. I have no problem with vaccines. I have a problem with force,” said Kristin Massi, a Coachella Valley parent. “There’s a big difference between anti-vaccine and anti-vaccine mandate.”

A new bill could require California students to get the COVID vaccine. Senate Bill 871 would add COVID-19 vaccines to California’s list of required inoculations for students attending K-12 schools. According to the L.A. Times, the new bill would offer assistance to districts like L.A. Unified who have struggled with implementing their own vaccine mandates, while pushing schools in conservative parts of the state to jump on board. But local parents say the COVID-19 vaccine is not a one-size-fits-all solution to end the pandemic.

“I think everybody has their own situation,” said Massi. “I think there has to be a discussion about passing blanket policies that affects someone’s medical decision. I truly believe that there is a right to privacy over what happens to one’s body and I don’t believe there’s a pandemic exception for that.”

The bill can be skipped only if a student receives a rare medical exemption.

Under the bill, the California Department of Public Health could mandate vaccines in the future without requiring the state to offer personal belief exemptions.

Although less severe than adults, data from the CDC consistently shows that COVID-19 can pose a serious threat to children, but the vaccine helps to prevent spread and severe complications.

“In the Coachella Valley in the last month, I’ve admitted 5 children into the hospital including 2 two-week old babies so it is something that happens,” said Tim Chinnock, Chief of Pediatrics for Desert Regional Medical Center and JFK Memorial Hospital. “Children do get sick from the coronavirus and it does land them in the hospital. And it does appear that the vaccine for children 5-12 years of age, they can be 90+% effective at preventing COVID.”

Despite the data, parents and health officials agree that the decision to vax or not to vax is up to families.

“Ultimately, I believe when it comes to the COVID vaccine, parents have the right to decide what is best for their children and best for their family,” said Massi.

“The choices that we make for our children are not only important for their individual health, but also for the population as a whole,” said Chinnock.

If passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, the legislation would replace California’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate put in place by Governor Gavin Newsom last year. 

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