THE ANGEL – A state lawmaker said he wants to ensure all high school students in Los Angeles and across the state are vaccinated against COVID-19, announcing a proposal Monday to eliminate exceptions to personal beliefs and expand a state vaccination mandate.
“We have an opportunity here to protect children,” Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, said during a California Medical Association press conference at Arleta High School in the San Fernando Valley, where the lawmaker and pediatrician revealed details of the Keep Schools Open and safe action.
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“As a pediatrician, parent, and legislator, I am committed to providing the public with confidence and reassurance that we are working to prevent or slow the next surge in the coronavirus,” Pan said. “Legislators have the power to legislate to make our communities safer, including increasing vaccination rates to keep schools open and safe.”
Under state law, personal belief exceptions must be allowed for any newly required childhood vaccine, unless lawmakers pass a law banning them.
Pan said closing the personal belief liberation gap for the “safe and effective” vaccinations ensures “every medically fit student who attends the school in person is vaccinated.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a statewide vaccination mandate for schools, but that won’t take effect statewide until a vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Pan’s bill would require the recordings, even if they’re only offered under an emergency FDA clearance.
Anyone aged 5 and over is currently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
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Los Angeles Unified School District interim superintendent Megan K. Reilly called immunization requirements Monday an essential part of keeping students safe, especially those from low-income communities who have been disproportionately affected by the deadly virus.
California law requires children as young as 12 to be vaccinated without parental consent
Senator Scott Wiener argued that California allows consent for hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse and mental disorders as early as 12 years of age.
“All staff at our schools are 100% vaccinated, and nearly 90% of our students aged 12 and older meet our immunization requirements,” Reilly said. “We’ve reduced case numbers among our students and staff and in our schools because of the many layers of protection and safety measures — but mostly because of vaccines.”
She spoke out in favor of a nationwide vaccination mandate.
“With a county as large as Los Angeles, with nearly 1.5 million students in transition kindergarten through 12th grade in 80 different school districts, this uniformity in health standards will help ensure that all of us in the school community do our part.” -Keep transmissions low and ensure a safe school environment for our most vulnerable student populations,” she said.
San Diego Unified Board Member Richard Barrera also attended Monday’s press conference. He called compulsory vaccination “common sense” to protect students and educators and to keep children in schools.
SDUSD has unsuccessfully attempted to implement its own spring semester immunization requirements for students and staff, but those guidelines are being held up in court.
“The state legislature has the power to require a vaccination mandate,” he said. “What Senator Pan is doing is stepping up and doing what all people who follow science understand…
“We applaud this necessary legislation from our leaders to help end the roller coaster of the pandemic and allow schools to refocus on what we do best – educating our students.”
The Keep Schools Open and Safe Act builds on SB 277, also sponsored by Pan, which eliminated the personal belief exemption for all other childhood vaccinations required of students in public and private schools when it came into effect 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 infection,” Pan said. “My legislation will give parents great reassurance that their child is not likely to become seriously ill and their school will remain open during COVID.”
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