Over the last two years, California’s school children have suffered devastating learning loss and severe mental health consequences from COVID-19 school shutdowns. State Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) has introduced Senate Bill 871 that would require every K-12 student in California to receive the COVID-19 vaccine  to receive the in-person public education rightfully granted to them in the California Constitution. SB 871 would also eliminate any personal belief exemption, which would make California one of only two states in the nation to require the COVID vaccine for students.

This is despite the fact that children continue to have less than a 19% COVID positive case rate, and the state’s Dept. of Public health data shows a 0.0% death rate due to COVID for children under 18.

We believe parents are best qualified to make the medical decisions for their children and the right to an education should not be denied to any child based on their COVID-19 vaccine status. It is time for California’s leaders and schools to focus on keeping students in school and helping students recover the learning that was lost during the pandemic.

The following facts demonstrate that the COVID vaccine mandate is not necessary for public health reasons and would harm California’s children:

  • The COVID-19 emergency is over. State data shows over 74% of the population over age 5 is fully vaccinated. The state of California, with almost 39 million residents, is averaging  2500 positive cases and 83 deaths per day. Research shows the risk of children becoming severely ill or dying from Covid is extremely low, and most children with COVID are asymptomatic or experience mild symptoms.
  • Advocates of vaccine mandates argue that children should be vaccinated to protect teachers. However, CDC data shows the vaccine does not stop the spread of the virus. Teachers have had the opportunity to be vaccinated and we have not seen schools as hotbeds for deadly infections.
  • California’s Dept. of Health data shows that 44 percent of all school-age kids – more than 3 million – are still unvaccinated. Vaccinating them now would be a massive undertaking that schools are not equipped to take on. With vaccines widely available, it’s clear that parents who want to have their children vaccinated have done so and those parents who have not had their children vaccinated have made that decision.
  • The state and schools do not have the capacity to accommodate hundreds of thousands  – and by one estimate more than a million – children who would be forced into remote learning if the COVID vaccine was mandatory. In December 2021, LAUSD reversed its decision to mandate the vaccine for students ages 12 and up when 30,000 unvaccinated students would have been required to return to remote learning.
  • California experienced record rates of student absenteeism during the pandemic. Many students just stopped going to school. If unvaccinated students are forced into remote learning, California can expect catastrophic absenteeism and dropout rates, especially in our most vulnerable communities.
  • California experienced the largest domestic out-migration of any state in 2021 with 367,299 residents leaving, according to Census data as of July 1, 2021. Many more families will leave the state if SB 871 becomes law.
  • SB 871 violates parental rights. Medical choices should be left to the parent or legal guardian of each child. Unlike other vaccines required to attend school in California, the COVID-19 vaccine is still designated as Emergency Use Authorization only for children under 16.