Parents debate push to require COVID-19 vaccine for students, eliminate personal belief exemption

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A new law could add the COVID-19 vaccine to a list of required vaccinations for children attending school in California.

Monday brought the latest move to get more California kids vaccinated against COVID-19.

"We will be passing a statewide law, the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act," State Senator Dr. Richard Pan told reporters. "To require COVID-19 vaccines for in-person school attendance."

However, before the bill's potential impact on K through 12th grade students, state legislators still have to debate.

RELATED: Students in California would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under proposed bill

If passed, starting in 2023, students wouldn't be allowed to opt out of receiving the vaccine over personal beliefs. The only way to skip the shot would be with a medical exemption.

"This personal belief exemption that we're trying to eliminate or for the COVID vaccine, it's just a gigantic loophole," State Senator Scott Wiener told ABC7 News. "Because it allows people, for no reason other than their point of view or their politics, to not have their kid get vaccinated."

Sen. Pan's announcement comes only days after Sen. Wiener introduced the Teens Choose Vaccines Act. Wiener's bill aims to give 12 to 17-year-olds the ability to get the COVID vaccine without needing their parents' permission.

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Thousands of people spent their Sunday protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates across the country from our Nation's capitol to here in the Bay Area.



"It's not only about kids whose parents don't want them to get vaccinated. It's about parents who don't have the time," Wiener explained. "And relieving the parents of that stress of, 'how do I make the time when I'm working multiple jobs and raising multiple kids?'"

He added, "Whether it's teenagers being able to go and get their own vaccines, or truly requiring all school children to be vaccinated for COVID - unless they have a medical reason not to - that just makes all the sense in the world."

However, not all parents agree.

"We all know that with omicron going on, that it's evading vaccines," a parent from Southern California said. "And Pan taking that choice away from parents, a lot of us can't afford to quit and homeschool."

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

At Monday's press conference, Sen. Pan told reporters, "As a pediatrician, parent, and legislator, I am committed to giving the public confidence and certainty, that we are working to prevent or slow down the next coronavirus surge."

One Southern California parent argued, "I just think that we need a choice."

Others explained the choice is easy.

In the Bay Area, Palo Alto Unified School District parent, Linda Henigin said, "I think back to 100 years ago, 200 years ago, when we didn't have lifesaving vaccines and children died of what are now entirely preventable diseases. And so, I'm all for eradicating these things from circulation by vaccinating everyone."

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Martha Raddatz interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci on "This Week."



With a 9th grader and 3rd grader in the district, Henigin added, "We already have Chickenpox, Measles, Diphtheria, Pertussis- we have the whole list. And I'm really grateful for all those, because I don't want my kids to get those diseases."

"I don't want those diseases circulating in the world," she told ABC7 News. "It makes perfect sense to me that this would just go on the list."

Both Senators Pan and Wiener's bills still have to pass through both the State Senate and Assembly before going to the governor's desk - and there are some state officials who don't see eye-to-eye.

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Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) is among a group of California senators who are, at best, skeptical of the proposal.

"I have heard from dozens of school leaders throughout my Senate District begging the state to leave families the flexibility they need to make their own decisions without further disrupting schooling for youths," Sen. Dahle said, continuing, "We've already seen the terrible impacts of school closures. Let's not make things worse by forcing children out of classrooms because their parents object to heavy-handed mandates. I urge parents and concerned Californians to contact the bill's author and continue advocating for their children and grandchildren."

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