When asked about whether he would copy a mandate signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to mandate vaccines for eligible children to attend class, Justice told CBS News that he won’t do it.
“From the standpoint of mandates, I don’t believe in imposing upon our freedoms, over and over and over. And I’ve said that over, I don’t know how many times I gotta say it,” Justice told the network. “But from the standpoint of our children, I’m going to still encourage in every way, because I truly believe that the more people that we get vaccinated, the less people will die. But at the same time, we still got to stand up for who we are.”
Justice, a Republican, said that such mandates are divisive. “For crying out loud, we’re Americans,” he added.
Several weeks after Newsom, a Democrat, survived a recall attempt, the California governor became the first in the nation to announce a statewide vaccine mandate for schoolchildren aged 12 and up.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella—there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19,” Newsom said.
Numerous studies and federal health data show that children are very unlikely to develop serious or long illness, become hospitalized, or die from COVID-19. A UK study found that in the United Kingdom, five times more children committed suicide during pandemic lockdowns than died from the virus.
Last week, Newsome announced “a statewide requirement for in-person instruction for all of our children to add to a well established list that currently includes 10 vaccinations… the vaccination for COVID-19.”
“Are there exemptions? Yes, well established exemptions for medical reasons, personal and or religious beliefs. Those are established in those guidelines as well,” he added.
While some parents in California praised Newsom’s mandate, many criticized it.
Sarah Burwick, a lawyer in Los Angeles and parent of a soon-to-be 5-year-old, said she is fully vaccinated but that it isn’t clear at this time whether the risk to her child is greater from getting the shot than from the disease.
“I think any mandate on this vaccine for kids is way too soon,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “We keep hearing the buzzwords ‘safe’ and ‘effective,’ but I think the question for kids should be: is this necessary?”
Janet Meadows, whose children are in first grade and preschool, said she’d consider homeschooling her children before vaccinating them. The 41-year-old from Kern County said she’s worried about the health effects of the not-yet-approved shots for children and a potential exodus of families from public schools.
“I don’t think we know enough about the vaccine to make our children get it,” she said. “There’s just a lot of unknowns. We don’t need to rush into this right now.”
AP contributed to this report.