January 24, 2022
Senator Richard Pan, M.D., has introduced a bill—the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act—to close the personal belief exemption loophole for school-based vaccination requirements for COVID-19.
Dr. Pan’s new bill builds on SB 277, which he authored in 2015 to eliminate the personal belief exemption loophole for all other childhood vaccinations required for public and private school students. After passage of SB 277, vaccination rates in California dramatically increased for childhood diseases such as measles.
“As the parent of two school students, I understand parents need confidence and certainty that their child’s school is safe and can be in-person. 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 infections,” said Dr. Pan. “My legislation will give parents great certainty that their child is unlikely to get seriously sick and their school will stay open during COVID.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom in October 2021 announced a statewide school vaccination mandate, but under state law, only the Legislature may remove the personal belief exemption.
“As COVID cases and hospitalizations of children are rising due to more infectious variants, we know that vaccination is our greatest defense. Too many children are not yet fully vaccinated and are left vulnerable to this serious disease,” said California Medical Association (CMA) President Robert. E. Wailles, M.D. “California needs policies to minimize the threat of COVID-19 to children, and CMA appreciates the leadership of Dr. Pan for working to protect children’s health and their right to safe schools.”
Last week, Dr. Pan and six other legislators also announced the formation of a legislative Vaccine Work Group to facilitate coordinated action to promote vaccines and science-based public health policy.