Vaccine mandate is needed to stop COVID surge, says CA Assemblymember Buffy Wicks

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Angie Perrin

A woman receives the one-shot Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from a nurse at a vaccination site in Covina, California, on March 13, 2021. Photo by Shutterstock

Pasadena will be the first Southern California city to require its city employees to get vaccinated against COVID. The UC school system is also requiring its students and teachers to be vaccinated before the fall semester starts. But why stop there, asks California State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks. She represents Berkeley, Richmond, and parts of the East Bay. 

Wicks tweeted on Tuesday that it’s high time to make vaccinations mandatory as California’s COVID surge continues. She also wants businesses to start requiring customers to show proof of vaccination before they can enter.

“Many counties in California would be in the purple tier if we were still using the tier system, which would mean no indoor dining [and] our schools would be closed. I do not want to go back to that,” she tells KCRW. “We need a cultural shift in the way that we approach vaccine requirements if we want to get out of this pandemic.”

But it’s not simple to require vaccinations according to UC Hastings law professor Doris Reiss. That’s due to the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the current COVID-19 shots, plus uncertainty around whether it’s legal to mandate those types of treatments. 

“There is a big uncertainty on whether you can mandate an EUA vaccine. Many legal scholars feel that ‘no, you cannot.’ I think the argument [is] that yes, employers and businesses can mandate a EUA vaccine is stronger. And we've seen a Texas court uphold employment mandates recently, saying that yes, employers can mandate COVID-19 vaccine. But there is a legal concern around EUA vaccines,” says Reiss.  

However, once the vaccines are fully approved, businesses will be allowed to require vaccinations, similar to past mandates. Those with medical or religious exemptions would not have to get the vaccine.

Wicks adds that she wants to see all schools require both staff and students to be vaccinated as well. 

“This is a public health crisis, and we need to take more immediate action,” she says. “I hope that there's the political will. I hope that we have more elected officials who are speaking out and saying, ‘This should be something that's required.’ We need more leadership across the board, from folks on this issue to push for more widespread vaccination because as we've seen, in our unvaccinated communities, the Delta variant is incredibly dangerous.”

Credits

Guest:

  • Buffy Wicks - California State Assemblymember in the Bay Area