Politics and pandemic fatigue doom California’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates

In January, the Progressive Democrats of California pledged to adopt the toughest COVID vaccine requirements in the country. Their proposals would require most Californians to take the shots to go to school or work – without allowing exceptions.

Months later, lawmakers withdrew their bills before the first ballots.

An important vaccine proposal survives, but faces a difficult battle. It would allow children aged 12 to 17 to get the COVID-19 vaccine without parental permission. At least 10 other states allow some minors to do this.

Democrats have blamed the failure of their vaccination mandates on the changing nature and perception of the pandemic. They said the measures became redundant as case rates dropped earlier this year and the public became less focused on the pandemic. They also argued that the state does not vaccinate enough children, so requiring vaccines to participate would exclude too many children from school.

Political pressure from business and public security groups and moderate Democrats – along with strong opposition from vaccine activists – has also helped.

Now, even as case rates begin to rise again, the window of opportunity for vaccination orders for COVID may be closed, said Hemi Tewarson, executive director of the National Academy of Health Policy. “Given the concerns about the mandates and all the repulsed states about it, they are reluctant to really go ahead,” Tewarson said. “Federal orders have stopped in the courts. And the legislation is simply not enacted. “

Other states have also largely failed to adopt COVID vaccine requirements this year. Washington, DC, was the only jurisdiction to pass legislation to add the COVID vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for K-12 students as soon as the vaccines receive full federal approval for children of this age. A public school mandate approved by Louisiana in December 2021 was canceled in May. The most popular vaccine legislation was the ban on COVID vaccine prescriptions of any kind, something at least 19 states did, according to the National Academy of Health Policy.

In California, the landscape has changed radically in just a few months. In January, a group of progressive Democrats introduced eight bills to demand vaccinations, combat misinformation and improve vaccine data. There were two sweeping orders that would require employees of most in-house businesses to get vaccinated and would add the COVID vaccines to the list of vaccinations required for schools.

“It’s important that we continue to push for vaccine orders as aggressively as possible,” said Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) he told KHN at the beginning of 2022. He was the author of the bill on the mandate in the workplace.

But the legislation collapsed almost immediately.

In March, the Wicks employee vaccination mandate died. They were strongly opposed by the firefighters’ and police unions, whose membership would be subject to the requirement.

“I do not think anti-vaxxers have much weight in Sacramento with my colleagues,” Wicks said. “It’s a very insignificant part of the equation.”

Public safety unions “are the ones that have the weight and influence in Sacramento,” he said. California professional firefighters and other public safety teams argued in writing contrary to the bill that the orders will interfere with their ability to negotiate employment requirements with their employers. “The brief abolition of these negotiating policies with a general mandate sets a dangerous and discouraging precedent,” wrote the team, which represents 30,000 firefighters.

“It’s hard to argue that right now we have to be compelling when you have a good number of people who feel we have gone through the pandemic.”

– Member of the Assembly Akilah Weber (D-San Diego)

Schools also had to be subject to a strict vaccination mandate.

In October 2021, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced that California will become the first state to require student shootings by July 2022. That deadline has since been delayed by at least July 2023.

And Newsom’s command came with a small window which will allow parents to exclude their children by claiming an exception of “personal beliefs”.

In January, when California typically exceeded 100,000 new cases a day, lawmakers enacted legislation banning personal belief exceptions to COVID vaccines – no other required childhood vaccines are allowed.

Again, they soon backed down, saying the vaccination rate among children was so low that vaccines should not be needed until they are widely available at pediatricians. About 60% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated and have received a booster vaccine, while only 35% of children aged 5 to 11 years have taken their first two doses, according to the California Department of Public Health. The supplements were approved for children in mid-May.

MP Akilah Weber, left, speaks at a roundtable with Attorney General Rob Bonta and local leaders to discuss reproduction rights May 5 in San Diego.

(Haley Nelson / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Instead of enforcing orders, the state should focus on educating and reaching out to parents, said Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) Assembly member OB-GYN, who was among lawmakers who introduced the vaccine package.

“It’s hard to argue that we have to be compelling right now when you have a good number of people who feel we have overcome the pandemic,” he said.

Lawmakers could revive the mandate bills, he said, if hospitals and health workers are flooded again. Cases are on the rise throughout the country. The percentage of positive COVID tests was up to 7% In recent days, its highest level since February – and most likely a countdown due to people taking tests at home and reporting no results.

Weber’s proposal for better parental involvement helps explain why the legislation failed, said Robin Swanson, a political adviser to the Sacramento-based Democrats. State and local officials have never communicated clearly with the public about vaccinating children, he said, and have not effectively approached vulnerable populations from the beginning.

“You can not build a command over disbelief,” Swanson said.

Approaching and informing the public is crucial, said Dr. John Swartzberg, Emeritus Clinic Professor of Infectious Diseases and Vaccines at the UC-Berkeley School of Public Health. But if these are combined with a mandate, he said, the state could vaccinate and protect many more children.

“In companies that require vaccines, it works quite well,” Swartzberg said. “And in schools, in particular, it works very well.”

Vaccine activists who vowed to have a larger presence at the Capitol this year also said the orders would dramatically boost vaccination rates. But as reality came in, they shifted their focus to boosting funding for vaccinations and pushing surviving accounts across the finish line.

“Yes, we do need vaccine requirements, and yes, they do work,” said Crystal Strait, the leader of the ProtectUS vaccine organization. However, she acknowledged that the situation had changed since January and said her team needed to change: “We can not be as simplistic as a simple vaccine requirement.”

Newsom’s latest budget proposal includes $ 230 million for vaccine screening and $ 135 million for vaccine distribution and delivery.

The Straits team plans to fight vaccine misinformation among the public and cautious lawmakers, including Democrats.

“You have people who say they are in favor of science and public health, but when the push comes, it is not there yet,” Straight said of hesitant lawmakers.

Vaccine orders are generally popular with the general public. According to a March survey by the California Institute of Public Policy, 57% of Californians favors the requirement for people to provide proof of vaccination to go to large outdoor gatherings or to enter some indoor venues such as bars and restaurants.

But Rose Kapolczynski, a Democratic general who worked to push the vaccine lobby with Strait, likened vaccine beliefs to climate change: Voters say they care about other, more tangible issues, such as prices and reproduction rights are becoming more urgent. their.

“If things were as bad now as they were in January and February, there would be more concern and action,” said Catherine Flores-Martin, executive director of the California Vaccine Coalition. “I’m disappointed that people do not look very well.”

This story was created by Kaiser Health Newswhich publishes California Healthlinean editorially independent service California Health Care Foundation. KHN is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Politics and pandemic fatigue doom California’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates Source link Politics and pandemic fatigue doom California’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates

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