Pennsylvania Senate approves bill to prevent COVID-19 vaccination requirement for schools

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate approved legislation Monday to prevent kids from being required to get a COVID-19 vaccination to go to school.

“It’s just a measure to be sure parents have the choice to determine the health care of their own children,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Camera Bartolotta.

The Republican-backed bill, SB937, passed along party lines. Senators say this bill has nothing to do with the efficacy of the vaccine, but rather everything to do with giving power to the parents.

“We know there’s not a mandate or law in place right now for this particular vaccine,” said Bartolotta. “But this administration has been very good about throwing things out there that are unconstitutional that we have to fight in court and win, but we need to protect the children of Pennsylvania.”

In a statement, Governor Tom Wolf’s office said:

“The administration opposes this legislation, as our focus with the vaccine is to continue to urge all eligible Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated, get boosted, and take your children ages 5 and older to get vaccinated.

“The administration has no plans to mandate vaccines for K-12 schools so this is nothing more than a waste of time and taxpayer money, and is a distraction from the real issues Pennsylvanians are facing that Republicans should be addressing; namely, ending the pandemic by encouraging their constituents to get vaccinated, supporting our workforce and growing our economy.

“Appointments are available statewide for Pennsylvanians ages 5 and older for their primary series and 16+ for their booster shot. Vaccines are safe, effective, and readily available across Pennsylvania. Visit vaccines.gov to find an appointment.”

SB937 now goes to the House.

“I imagine when it comes over here, we’re largely going to be opposed to it because we understand science-based law,” said State Representative Emily Kinkead.

Kinkead calls this bill dangerous.

“We have a long history of mandating vaccines in Pennsylvania because we understand that they work,” said Kinkead. “And the most recent vaccine mandate that we passed was through a majority Republican legislature with a republican governor when we mandated college students living in dorms needed to be vaccinated for meningitis. Vaccines save lives and we are playing politics with people’s lives.”

“Let’s take a breath,” said Bartolotta. “Follow the science. Read the reports. Look at the data. And one of the things that raises my eyebrows is the FDA says they’re not going to get the data from this vaccine for 75 years. I thought that was a joke. It’s not a joke. We need to be provided with all of the data and then make good decisions based on that data. I think it’s totally up to the parents to protect their children the way they see fit.”

The sponsor, Sen. Michelle Brooks, R-Mercer, argued that other vaccines required by schools weren’t approved under “emergency use authorization” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, her bill makes no mention of the vaccine’s emergency authorization.

Brooks’ senatorial district has the fifth-lowest vaccination rate by district.