Bill to Protect our Right to Safely Receive Vaccines Passes the State Senate with Bipartisan Support

Anti-science extremists use intimidation tactics and physical obstruction endangering patients and front-line workers at vaccine clinics

June 2, 2021

SACRAMENTO, CA – Senate Bill 742 by Dr. Richard Pan to give local health officials the tools they need to keep extremists from harassing and intimidating patients and front-line workers when getting the vaccine, passed the State Senate today with 33 to 4.

 “At the same time that we are making great strides in distributing COVID-19 vaccines and educating the public, anti-vaccine extremists have stepped up their tactics to disrupt and stop the work of medical professionals to finally put the pandemic behind us.” Said Dr. Richard Pan. “I thank my Senate colleagues for their bipartisan support of patients and front-line workers to be free from intimidation, harassment, and physical obstruction when getting the vaccine.”

“Making sure people have access to a lifesaving vaccine isn’t partisan, as we saw with today’s 33-4 vote. The bullying, harassment and threats of violence we see from antivaxx extremists stop us from moving forward,” said Crystal Strait of ProtectUS, sponsors of SB 742. “That’s why Dr. Pan’s continued focus on protecting our freedoms through promoting vaccine-access is what we need right now to end the pandemic.”

SB 742 will protect the rights of people to safely receive vaccinations without concern for intimidation or physical obstruction by protestors, while preserving the right of protesters to assemble. Specifically, under SB 742, a person would not be permitted to physically obstruct or intimidate at a vaccine clinic and all individuals who engage in pickets at a vaccine clinic would need to stay at a designated distance from the clinic. This bill sets violations of this law punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both.

COVID-19 Vaccinations are given at a variety of vaccination sites, such as hospitals, physician offices, clinics, and other retail spaces and pop-up locations. The unprecedented scope of COVID-19 vaccination efforts has required the use of unconventional venues such as fairgrounds or stadiums for vaccination sites. However, the legal code has not yet evolved to account for these changes, and current laws do not adequately empower law enforcement to balance the first amendment rights to free speech with the right to receive healthcare at vaccination sites.

In the most talked about example, an anti-vaccine mob descended onto a large-scale vaccination site at Dodger stadium in Los Angeles, where they used intimidation and physical obstruction to keep people from getting vaccinated and they forced a temporary closure of the site. In the weeks since, anti-vaccine extremists have targeted other vaccine sites where they have tried to frighten community members with extreme anti-vaccine propaganda.

“We need to be clear that we stand with patients and front line workers as they are working to bring an end to the pandemic. Frontline healthcare workers and officials understand the need to put themselves in harms-way many times for their job, but that should not extend to the fear of harassment, assault and violence in the guise of protest,” added Dr. Pan.

SB 742 will be heard next in the State Assembly.