Peter Blair | March 2, 2022 | State Law
It is currently not illegal to be unvaccinated against COVID-19 in California. However, pushes for vaccination mandates could change vaccination laws this year.
Vaccine battles broke out across the country when they became available to the public. Vaccine proponents argue that lawmakers must mandate COVID-19 vaccines to end the pandemic in the United States. Vaccine opponents argue that mandates violate civil rights and question whether vaccines are safe.
California’s Democratic leaders argue that vaccination is essential for protecting public health and necessary to combat the coronavirus. Continue reading to learn the current status of vaccine mandates in California.
What is the Current California Law Regarding Vaccinations for Children?
California state law requires specific childhood vaccinations against several diseases for students, except those who fall under a medical exemption.
Required school and daycare vaccinations include but are not limited to:
- Chickenpox (varicella)
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
- Hepatitis B
Pro-vaccine supporters pushed to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for school children. On October 1, 2021, Gov. Newsom’s office issued a mandate for COVID-19 vaccinations in schools.
Students would be required to have a COVID-19 vaccination. They must receive the vaccination before the term following approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of a vaccine for their age.
However, the California state legislature has not passed a bill adding the COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required childhood vaccinations. Until then, parents may opt out of the directive by claiming personal beliefs or medical exemptions.
Lawmakers are working on bills to eliminate the personal belief exemption. They may also eliminate the medical exemption. Senate Bill 871 would add COVID-19 vaccines to the list of required school and daycare vaccinations. The bill only provides very limited medical exemptions.
Furthermore, some lawmakers are working on bills that could lower the age of consent for a COVID-19 vaccination from 18 years to 12 years. If that passes, a minor 12 years or older could receive the COVID-19 vaccination without parental consent. However, the bill faces tough opposition from many parents’ groups and organizations.
Vaccine Mandates for Adults in California
California was the first state to require teachers and school staff members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If they decline the vaccination, they must receive weekly COVID-19 testing to remain employed.
Vaccine verification is required for state employees. The mandate requires state workers to provide proof of full vaccination or face weekly COVID-19 testing. There is also a mandate for all healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated. The mandate required healthcare workers to receive their second COVID-19 dose by September 30, 2021.
Vaccination supporters pushed for mandates requiring all workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. They also wanted people entering businesses to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus. However, Governor Newsom never issued those mandates.
However, on February 10, 2022, Assembly Bill 1993 was introduced in the California Legislature. It states that employees and independent contractors will need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to an employer. The bill in its current form includes exemptions for individuals who hold sincere religious beliefs against vaccination.
The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2023, if it passes and is signed by Governor Newsom. The bill would make California employers responsible for vaccination programs within their companies. Failing to comply with the law would result in penalties, which are not yet clearly defined in the proposed bill.
Is it Illegal to Ignore an Executive Order Mandating COVID-19 Vaccinations in California?
The proposed bills in the California legislature regarding COVID-19 vaccination requirements could carry civil or criminal penalties for failing to obey the law. It depends on the final version of the bill passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Newsom.
Individuals may or may not face penalties for ignoring a state mandate issued through an executive order. For example, school districts that refuse to comply with the state mandate for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19 could risk losing state funding.
However, a local district attorney’s office or the California Attorney General’s Office could prosecute individuals for ignoring the law. Law enforcement agencies have never attempted to put someone in jail for failing to get a vaccination. However, fines and other penalties could be imposed, depending on the final bill and whether it passes.
What Should You Do if You Have Questions About COVID-19 Mandates and Laws in California?
The status of vaccination mandates and laws is constantly evolving. If you have questions about current COVID-19 mandates and laws, you can discuss those questions with an attorney. A San Diego criminal defense attorney can explain the civil and criminal penalties for breaking laws related to COVID-19 vaccinations.