PA Senate Prohibits Vaccine Mandates for School Children

HARRISBURG – As Pennsylvania has struggled to keep children in their classrooms because of questionable COVID-19 policies, the Senate today acted to prevent students from being barred from school if they don’t get vaccinated for COVID-19, said Sen. Pat Stefano (R-32), who supported the effort.

Senate Bill 937 would amend Pennsylvania’s Public School Code to prohibit a child from being required to be immunized for COVID-19 as a condition of attendance in any public or private K-12 schools.

The bill has nothing to do with the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, which is now available to children ages 5 to 15 under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization, and full FDA approval for anyone 16 years of age and older.

The legislation acknowledges parents have a right to be involved with the health care decisions for their children. Because the COVID-19 vaccine for those under age 16 has only received FDA emergency use authorization (EUA), federal EUA law prohibits patients from being coerced into taking the vaccine. That means those children have the right to refuse the medical treatment, with their parents exercising that right on their behalf.

“Other than those who contracted COVID-19, our children have been hurt the most and for the longest by the response to the pandemic. Because of policies that barred them from physically being in the classroom during the past two years, many experienced learning loss – sometimes so profound that it required them to repeat a grade,” Sen. Stefano said. “All along, we should have been comparing the risk to their health and the risk to their development.”

There are more than 73 million children in the United States, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of Dec. 9, there have been nearly 7.2 million reported child COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Of that, among the 45 states reporting data, between 0.1% and 1.9% of the child cases resulted in hospitalization and 0.03% or less have resulted in death.

While COVID-19 presents a risk to the health of some children, not being in school poses an even greater risk to all children.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

CONTACT: Mark Fetzko, mfetzko@pasen.gov