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Pennsylvania state Senate Republicans on Monday approved legislation that would prohibit a COVID-19 vaccine mandate requirement for K–12 students in order for them to attend school, despite there being no such mandate currently in effect.

Senate Bill 937, introduced by Sen. Michele Brooks, passed the upper chamber in a 28–21 vote along party lines and now heads to Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives.

The legislation amends the Public School Code of 1949, by adding an “immunization exception” section that reads “no child shall be required to be immunized for the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, known as COVID-19, as a condition of compliance with 28 Pa. Code § 23.83 (relating to immunization requirements).”

Effectively, it means that schools would be prohibited from requiring kids to get a COVID-19 vaccine to attend classes.

Under the Pennsylvania Code §23.83 immunization requirements, children are required to be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, hepatitis B, and chickenpox to attend school. However, in regards to measles, mumps, and rubella evidence of immunity is acceptable.

School children in the state can invoke medical, religious, or philosophical exemptions for the immunization requirements.

Senate Bill 937 received pushback from legislative Democrats, and will likely face a veto by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, who said he opposes the bill and does not have plans to implement such a mandate.

“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,” Wolf’s office said in a statement.

The governor also added that Republicans should be encouraging their constituents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Currently, all Pennsylvanians age 5 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and Wolf has urged Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated and receive booster shots against COVID-19 in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

By Katabella Roberts

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