The detrimental impact on our children of online learning is clear. Poor academic progress. Mental health worries. Lack of social interaction. Keeping schools open should be one of California’s top priorities.
State lawmakers have introduced two bills that would help do that:
• SB 871 would require treating COVID-19 vaccines like any other mandated inoculations for attending California’s K-12 schools. Medical exemptions, which are rare, would be allowed. And personal belief exemptions, which anti-vaxxers used as a giant loophole until they were outlawed in California, would also be barred for COVID vaccines.
• SB 866 would allow children age 12 or older to get vaccinated without parental consent. California law already allows them on their own to get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B and to access reproductive and mental health care services. Many students want to be vaccinated to protect themselves and those close to them from COVID. Sen. Scott Weiner’s legislation would expand youth access to all vaccines that have been fully approved by the federal government.
It’s time to stop endangering lives by perpetuating misinformation about vaccines that have proven to be safe and effective. The Legislature should pass both bills.
But Pan’s bill should be amended to require full federal authorization before COVID vaccines are mandatory for school-age children. That authorization has already been granted for Pfizer’s vaccine for youngsters 16 and older and is expected for children ages 5-15 before the bill would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. Adding the requirement of full federal authorization would address a key concern some parents have.
COVID vaccines have proven to be highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and lessening the impact of the virus.
Yet California Department of Public Health data shows that only 19% of children age 5-11 and 65% of children age 12-17 in the state have been vaccinated. That compares with the 73% of Californians of all ages who have received both of their vaccination shots.
One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been that children aren’t as hard hit as adults by COVID. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control reports that, nationwide, 881 children under age 17 are being admitted to hospitals with COVID every day. And federal health officials have been reporting increasing numbers of hospitalizations of children aged 5-11. This is a health danger not only for the kids, but also for their teachers and family members who are more at risk of severe outcomes if they are infected by the virus.
The Legislature and the governor should pass SB 817 and SB 866 and put children’s educational and health needs above the fears of a small but vocal group of parents.