When Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that California would require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a critical caveat was tucked within the nation-leading announcement: Parents can opt their children out of inoculation based on personal beliefs.
Newsom did not define the criteria for obtaining those exemptions, leaving the task to state public health officials. Now, lawmakers are expressing concerns that allowing broad exemptions in the mandate will undermine the state’s effort to protect schools if too many families decide against vaccination.
Under California law, students are allowed to skip vaccines required for in-person attendance at K-12 schools after a doctor says it’s medically necessary to do so. Because the law only applies to previously approved immunizations, the state must offer broader personal belief exemptions for all newly mandated vaccines unless lawmakers and Newsom override that requirement.
Any discussion on vaccine mandates is likely to set off a feverish debate all too familiar in Sacramento. Changes to school vaccine laws led to intense deliberations, prolonged protests and arrests when California ended exemptions based on religious or philosophical beliefs in 2015 for other shots required for school, and in 2019 when lawmakers created stricter requirements for medical exemptions.
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