LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - In the next several months, California's vaccine mandate for schools is likely to go into effect, which means eligible staff and students who don't get vaccinated can't attend school.
While there are some exemptions, lawmakers may be poised to close religious and personal belief loopholes.
"We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it," Governor Gavin Newsom said on why he's set to impose a statewide vaccine mandate for California schools.
Newsom said that COVID cases overall are headed downward, but cases among kids are more alarming.
"From 12 to 17, we're not where we need to be, and so we hope this encourages folks to get vaccinated," the Governor said.
The statewide requirement is for staff and students for in-person learning. For students, the mandate would only take effect after the Food and Drug Administration gives full authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for kids 12 and up. Right now, Pfizer has emergency use authorization.
The governor expects the mandate will be in place by January and, if not, by next July, though there will be exemptions for medical reasons, personal and or religious beliefs.
"Those are established in these guidelines as well," Newsom said.
Democratic state lawmakers, however, said personal and religious beliefs allow way too large of a loophole and they want to tighten restrictions, which would mean the legislature must act.
"Right now, under Governor Gavin Newsom's mandate, it includes a personal belief exemption. Right now, under existing California law, if the state health department is the one to mandate a vaccine and it doesn't go through a vote of the legislature, then there is a personal belief exemption included," Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levinson said.
For some southland parents, it means pulling their kids out of school if they're being forced to get the COVID vaccine for in-person learning.
"I'm definitely not anti-vax. I do believe that vaccines are there for a good purpose," Renee Kennedy, a Southern California mom and business owner said. "There should be exemptions for, you know, religious reasons and, you know, health reasons."
Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley who ran in the recent recall race said the mandate is overreach.
"This should be a matter for individual families to make...it certainly is not something that should be ordered by the government. That's why no other state has done it," Kiley said.
The issue of masks and vaccination orders has sparked mass protests, but there is also widespread support for the mandates and, legally, they appear on solid ground.
"We've seen Governor Newsom show an enormous amount of will to ensure that people are vaccinated," Levinson said.
The Governor was asked about passing the mandate through the legislature, which could close religious and personal belief loopholes, and said he was willing to work with them to achieve their collective goals.
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