SB 871 would require daycare and school children to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and would remove the personal belief exemption for future CDPH implemented vaccines
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Background: A Voice for Choice Advocacy has sounded the warning for the past few months that at least five BAD vaccine related bills being considered for the 2022 legislative session. The second of those, SB 871 was introduced earlier this week, by Senator Pan, and co-authored but key members of the Vaccine Work Group - Senators Newman and Wiener and Assembly Members Aguiar-Curry, Wicks and Weber.
SB 871 Public health: immunizations (Pan) AVFCA Bill Analysis: SB 871 require the COVID-19 vaccine to attend in-person daycare and K-12 public or private school, starting January 1 2023. It would also remove the personal belief exemption from future CDPH added vaccines and removes the 7th grade exemption for Hepatitis B. ( [link removed] [[link removed]] )
A Voice for Choice Advocacy’s concerns with SB 871 are as follows:
- The bill is premature: The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has the statutory ability to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the childhood school required vaccine schedule. Given the continued uncertainty of what COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines hold for the future, legislation is not needed at this time.
- The bill is arbitrary: There is no scientific evidence that requiring the COVID-19 vaccine of all school children from daycare to 12th grade in California will reduce infection, transmission or severity of cases and number of deaths within schools or the local community.
- - The outcome of the bill will not prevent COVID-19 infection or transmission: Available vaccines were not designed to stop the transmission of COVID-19, greatly evidenced by the omicron variant’s infection and transmission among fully vaccinated school children.
- - The outcome of the bill will not reduce severe symptoms and death in children: It should be celebrated that data has consistently shown that children are not at significant risk from COVID-19 and that the risk of serious side effects or death from COVID-19 for 0-17 year olds is close to zero. Therefore, vaccinating children will not significantly change their outcomes of COVID-19.
- - The outcome of the bill will not protect teachers and the community: Again available vaccines do not prevent transmission, and so vaccinating children will not affect COVID-19 rates in the community.
- - The bill does not account for natural immunity: Over 15% of children have tested positive with COVID-19, and many more likely have unknowingly had asymptomatic COVID-19. According to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ([link removed]) natural immunity was six times stronger during the delta wave than vaccination. While there is no conclusive data available yet, omicron infection may provide even greater immunity via infection because it apparently infects the cells differently.
- The bill discriminates on race and income: COVID-19 vaccine uptake is lower among lower income, and ethnically diverse families, largely due to government mistrust. These communities have also been disproportionately affected by the virus, which means those communities could now be disproportionately armed with naturally-acquired immunity. Preventing these children from attending in-person school would put these children at an even greater disadvantage than they are already at.
- The bill discriminates on religious and conscientious beliefs: Article One of the California Constitution recognizes every person’s “right to the free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference,” describing this right as “liberty of conscience.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 grants employees in every state the right to religious accommodations to vaccines that are required as a condition of employment, but this protection is not currently extended to students who attend public and private schools in California. Equity should be given to parents who have sincere religious beliefs to prevent their children from being excluded from in-person education.
- The bill will have a significant fiscal impact on schools: Parents who have not vaccinated their children thus far, are unlikely to do so and therefore will remove their children from in-person school. Those CA school districts who prematurely implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates have had to back-pedal and push their mandate out because the number of students that remain unvaccinated is too large (e.g. 44% 12-17 year olds in Sac City Schools ([link removed]) and 34,000 12-17 year olds at LAUSD ([link removed]), their independent study programs are not robust enough to support them, and their budgets would be significantly impacted by the loss of these students from their enrollment.
- The bill removes the rights of private schools: Per the California Department of Education “Private schools function outside the jurisdiction of the California Department of Education (CDE) and most state education regulations. Private schools do not participate in California’s educational accountability system and are directly accountable to students and their parents or guardians, based on the terms of the private school enrollment contract.” Many schools are non-profits and/or religious based and do not wish to implement the COVID-19 vaccine requirement without personal, religious and/or conscientious belief exemptions. Under the definition of a private school, they should be accountable to their students, staff and parents, and not the government when it comes to the safety of their schools.
- The bill would give CDPH the unfettered ability to add vaccines to Daycare-12th grade requirements: In 2015, during the legislative process, SB277 was amended to include the personal belief exemption for any future vaccines that were added by CDPH, to ensure no vaccines were added to the daycare/school requirements without legislative due process. As you said yourself in the press conference launching this bill “the judges have certainly made it clear legislators have the authority to pass laws to make our community safe including increasing vaccination rates to keep schools open and safe and therefore legislators need to act.” Those same judges made it clear that government organizations, such as OSHA and CDPH do not have this authority.
Worldwide COVID-19 is transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic, and the World Health Organization has warned against immune system overload with continued COVID-19 boosters ( [link removed] [[link removed]] ). The key question A Voice for Choice Advocacy has and everyone should be asking is “What is the purpose of SB 871 and is the bill language narrowly tailored to that goal?”
AVFCA Response: While we strongly oppose this bill, and believe CDPH should be allowed to add COVID-19 to the K-12 school vaccine requirements, through the regulatory process, with a personal belief exemption and a sunset date would be a more appropriate response, at this time, if the bill moves forward in the legislature we ask that it is amended as follows:
- Apply a one year sunset date for the COVID-19 vaccine requirement
- No COVID-19 booster vaccinations be required
- Expand exemptions for COVID-19 to be for “medical reasons or because of religious or conscientious beliefs.”
- Allow natural immunity to count in lieu of vaccination
- Remove private daycares and schools from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement
- Continue to allow a personal belief exemption when diseases are added to the daycare-12th grade school required vaccine list by CDPH
Over the past 7 years, A Voice for Choice Advocacy has established itself as the leading legislative organization lobbying in the California Capitol for your health rights. While A Voice for Choice Advocacy's lobbying activity in the Capitol is important, your positive constituent relationships with your CA State Senator and Assembly Member and their staff are critical to assisting with A Voice for Choice Advocacy's efforts in the Capitol.
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