Children COVID Vaccine
Marisol Gerardo, 9, is held by her mother as she gets the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a clinical trial for children. Shawn Rocco/REUTERS

The slate of five bills in the California Legislature proposed by the vaccine working group fails to recognize that while COVID-19 vaccines do provide protection against serious and life-threatening infections, they do not block transmission. That makes vaccination a personal health choice based upon individual risk. It does not justify mandating vaccination. 

Mandates for a vaccine that does not block transmission are discriminatory. They force unvaccinated individuals to comply in order to attend school or keep their job.

Opinion logo

This is discrimination by coercion: Vaccinated individuals are as likely to spread viral particles as unvaccinated people, yet their activities are not restricted. The reasoning behind these mandates is not supported by current science-based data.

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) had the wisdom to cancel the scheduled March 30 hearing for Assembly Bill 1993. This bill would have required employees in California public and private businesses to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with financial penalties imposed on employers who failed to comply. Wicks cited the waning of the pandemic, along with opposition from police and firefighters unions, when she canceled the hearing.

These bills, however, are still under consideration: 

Senate Bill 871 mandates COVID vaccination for children ages 0 to 17 in order to attend school or day care, without waiting for FDA approval, and without allowing religious or personal-belief exemptions. This same bill also mandates vaccination for hepatitis B, a blood-borne and sexually transmitted disease, in order for students to enter seventh grade.

Senate Bill 866 allows children age 12 and older to be vaccinated without their parents’ knowledge or consent. It does not specify which vaccines.

Assembly Bill 2098 threatens doctors and health care workers with disciplinary action if they share information with patients that strays from the state and federally approved messaging and treatments for COVID-19. 

Senate Bill 1464 requires law enforcement to oversee compliance with these and other public health orders.

The passage of such bills will do nothing to stop the virus, but will widen the vitriolic divide that has resulted from poorly thought-out public health policy and media influence.

Research has shown that the immunity induced by COVID-19 vaccination, and even the booster shots, wanes over weeks to months. In addition, as the virus has mutated, the original vaccine has proven to be less effective against new variants, such as omicron and omicron2.

For children in the 5- to 11-year-old age group, the drop in vaccine effectiveness was dramatic. A recent study found that one month after vaccination, protection from the omicron strain was only 12%.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the vaccine does not stop transmission. Vaccinated individuals continue to shed and spread the virus if they become infected. More studies showing the vaccine’s inability to stop transmission can be found here and here.

Individuals should act responsibly in order to minimize infecting others. If people feel ill, they should get tested and stay home. While home, they should isolate and wear a high-quality mask. 

The COVID virus has become less virulent as it mutates. As it has moved through the population, we have been building protection against COVID-19 (referred to as herd immunity), both through naturally acquired immunity and vaccine-induced immunity.

As a result, we are seeing the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths head downward in California and the United States. Across the country and throughout California, vaccine mandates and mask mandates have been dropped, and cases, hospitalizations and deaths have continued to decline. 

This slate of bills undoubtedly was conceived at a time when COVID-19 was raging and it seemed that the vaccine was the only light to lead us to safety. As the science around COVID vaccines and the disease itself has evolved, however, these bills have become obsolete. Legislators should shelve the entire slate and encourage personal health responsibility.

Dr. Eileen S. Natuzzi, a retired surgeon and public health epidemiologist, worked at the San Diego Department of Public Health on its COVID response until April 2021. Elisa Carbone is a freelance writer and researcher. The authors wrote this for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.