Board of Supervisors oppose bill to end personal belief exemption for COVID vaccines

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors sign a letter of opposition to SB 871 that would mandate COVID-19 vaccines in schools, end the personal belief exemption “loophole”

VISALIA – Comments from the Board of Supervisors and the public drew a clear picture of what they think about recently introduced Senate Bill 871. The bill, if passed as is, would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccines mandatory for children to attend school and remove the exemption to vaccine mandates based on personal belief. 

Board members made their comments while passing a letter of opposition on Tuesday, March 1.

“One item here that I’m really standing strongly against is the removal of the personal belief exemption,” said Supervisor Pete Vander Poel. “Removing that exemption and not allowing people to choose to not have their kids vaccinated in order to attend school in the state of California is absolutely ridiculous, and I can’t believe this is even being considered by the legislature.” 

The bill was introduced on Jan. 24 by Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento). It builds on an existing bill, SB 277, which was passed in 2015 and ended the personal belief exemption for all vaccines currently mandated for children to attend school. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom already declared that he plans to mandate vaccines when they are fully approved by the United State Food and Drug Administration. Although, he had indicated that he would leave in a personal belief exemption, which SB 871 would remove. 

SB 871 is still in the process of going through several committee reviews before it reaches the Assembly and Senate floors, much less the Governor’s desk for approval. The letter states that long term data on the vaccine’s effect on children is absent, and that the risks are unknown. But the letter also lends the board’s thoughts on mandates for local school districts.

“School districts already have a heavy burden associated with changes and a loss of staff due to the pandemic,” the letter reads. “To place another state-mandated local program onto districts would be devastating.” 

Community members also spoke at the meeting in support of the letter including the president of the local anti-vaccine group Unmask Tulare County, Jimmy Malloy.

“This obviously is another bill that is just a bad deal,” Malloy said during public comment. “If we really want to see something done about it, it’s going to take hundreds of thousands of people to reach out to their congresspeople and really raise a stink.”

Community member Pamela Silva expressed during public comment that she’d like to see stronger language used in the letter. 

“We know this is harming children. We’ve seen young children die of strokes, heart attacks–it’s not normal,” Silva said. 

The Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency’s public information officer, Carrie Monteiro, said there has been no reports of children dying or being afflicted with strokes or heart attacks as a result of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, there has been 20 child cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) – a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs – from contracting COVID-19. Montiero said hospitals have not reported any cases of myocarditis as a result from the vaccination either. 

The first adverse reaction to the vaccine came in April 2021 when a resident suffered from anaphylaxis during the 15 minute observation window at one of the clinics in the county. 

Silva’s comments turned much more militant when she said, “We’re at war with our own government and I would like to see at least our local representatives acknowledge that.” Silva added, “I think you are [acknowledging war with the government], but I think it’s time to be proactive and do something harder against what’s going on.”

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