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Legal analyst weighs in on California’s school vaccine exemptions

With California becoming the first state to announce school vaccine requirements, many questions have followed regarding exemptions.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Laying out the exceptions but not giving specific details, Governor Gavin Newsom made the major announcement Friday that California will become the first in the nation to require the COVID-19 vaccine for not only staff but for students following FDA full approval.

“Are their exemptions? Yes, well-established exemptions: for medical reasons, personal and/or religious beliefs,” said Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday.

Legal analyst Dan Eaton says the process for students getting a medical exemption is straightforward, but requesting a religious exemption is more complicated.

"You would need to get a note from your healthcare provider saying that vaccination is medically unwarranted. The religious exemption is a little trickier. You have to attest that it is a bona fide religious reason that is causing you to resist vaccination,” said Eaton who specializes in employment law.

As for the San Diego Unified School District, board president Richard Barrera says it will allow for medical exemptions but not for religious or personal belief exemptions.

The Poway Unified School District says it will comply with the state order and allow exemptions.

"We know it is a divisive issue, but ultimately we hope that everyone is on the same page,” said Christine Paik, spokesperson for the Poway Unified School District.

The California State legislature could one day decide to remove any exemptions.

"We may want to consider legislative steps when the legislature goes back to session,” said California Senator Dr. Richard Pan.

That possible removal leaves some lawmakers worried.

"Very concerned that the legislature when it comes back, it will try to remove those exemptions,” said Kevin Kiley, CA Assembly member and vice chair of the education committee.

Dan Eaton says the battle over who gets what exemption may come out in court.

"You are going to have the kind of resistance that comes inevitably and results in lawsuits,” Eaton said.

Eaton says school legal teams could examine each exemption to decide if the reason is allowed and what accommodation will be made for the student.

"At some point, the courts are going to step in and give us a great deal of guidance, but for now anyway, we are in uncharted territory,” Eaton said.

WATCH REALTED: Parents feeling stuck after Gov. Newsom announces vaccine mandate for CA students (October 2021)