January 25, 2022 – SACRAMENTO – Monday, Senator Dr. Richard Pan introduced the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act, to close the personal belief exemption loophole for school-based vaccination requirements for COVID-19.
The Keep Schools Open and Safe Act builds on SB 277, also sponsored by Dr. Pan, which closed the personal belief exemption loophole for all other required childhood vaccinations for public and private school students. when it became law in 2015. After the passage of SB 277, immunization rates increased significantly for childhood diseases such as measles.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide school vaccination mandate, but under state law, only the legislature can remove the personal belief exemption.
Dr. Richard Pan, state senator and pediatrician said: “As a parent of two students, I understand that 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 that the COVID vaccination rate for students and school staff is as high as possible, in addition to masks, testing and good ventilation. to minimize infection. My legislation will give parents great certainty that their child is unlikely to become seriously ill and that their school will remain open during COVID.
On January 19, Dr. Pan and six other lawmakers announcement forming a Vaccine Legislative Task Force to facilitate coordinated action to promote vaccines and science-based public health policy.
Dr. Pan announced the new legislation today during a press conference at Arleta High School in Los Angeles. He was joined at the press conference by the following supporters of the bill:
Kelly Gonez, President of the United Council of Los Angeles
Megan K. Reilly, Acting Unified Superintendent of Los Angeles
San Diego Unified Council Member Richard Barrera
President of the California Medical Association, Robert E. Wailes, MD
Wendy Bloom, RN, Director of Organizing at ProtectUS said: “On behalf of the parents, grandparents, students and workers who make up the pro-vaccine majority, we commend Dr. Pan for once again leading the way in making our communities safe and healthy. I have been a Registered Nurse working at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland for 35 years. The Keep Schools Open and Safe Act is needed to protect these at-risk students and enable them to pursue in-person learning. All students deserve equal access to quality education, regardless of their health status. It is only through high vaccination rates that my patients will be able to go to school safely.
“Keeping our students and employees as safe as possible has been a top priority for Los Angeles Unified during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Los Angeles United Council President Kelly Gonez and Acting Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said. “We have maintained continuity of education while establishing the largest school-based COVID-19 screening program and keeping more than 1,400 schools open since August 16, our first day of school. The science is clear – vaccinations are an essential part of protecting against COVID-19. Los Angeles Unified applauds the nearly 90% of our students ages 12 and older and their families who comply with our vaccine requirements. Senator Pan’s bill will support widespread vaccination of students and ensure that local education agencies across the state can navigate the pandemic safely and effectively. A statewide vaccination mandate will promote uniform health and safety protocols and is aligned with the intent of other existing vaccination laws.
San Diego Unified School District School Board Member Richard Barrera said, “Local school districts are doing everything we can to keep our schools safe so students can continue to learn in person. Our educators and staff are vaccinated. We make vaccines readily available and accessible to our students. We welcome this necessary legislation from our Heads of State to help end the roller coaster of the pandemic and allow schools to focus again on what we do best – educating our students.
President of the California Medical Association, Robert E. Wailes, MD said: “As COVID cases and childhood hospitalizations increase due to more infectious variants, we know that vaccination is our greatest defense. Too many children are not yet fully immunized and remain vulnerable to this serious disease. California needs policies to minimize the threat of COVID-19 to children, and the California Medical Association appreciates the leadership of Dr. Richard Pan for working to protect children’s health and their right to safe schools.
Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, director of Safely Opening Schools at the Institute of Public Health said: “Completely vaccinating all members of the school community is essential to making our schools safe for all. This bill is urgently needed so that schools can return full-time to what they do the better – educate our children.”
Arin Parsa, Founder of Teens for Vaccines said: “Requiring vaccination against COVID-19 is how we keep schools open and safe. While school closures at the start of the pandemic were necessary, we now have safe and highly effective vaccines. LAUSD and SDUSD prove that mandates work, that high vaccination rates keep schools open and safe. Teens for Vaccines is thrilled to support the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act.
Alvin Lee, Executive Director of GENup said, “Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, student learning has been widely disrupted across the state. Not only did our students suffer physically, but also mentally and emotionally. We have seen virtual learning exacerbate these inequities – whether in access to mental health resources or unequal access to technological connectivity. Despite recent returns to in-person instruction, the surge in COVID-19 cases is once again threatening schools to return to virtual learning. As such, ensuring that every student is vaccinated will be essential if we are to return to a sense of normality in our nation’s largest education system. The data is clear: vaccines work! As such, we urge lawmakers to pass the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act to protect our state’s 6 million students and put student welfare and safety first!
Source: Senator Dr. Richard Pan