Vaccine mandate protest (Photo: courtesy of Addison Helzer)
by Brooke Cregan, staff writer
Gavin Newsom announced on Oct. 1 that students will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for in-person learning starting the school term following FDA full approval for their age span. California will become the first state in the nation to enforce this mandate.
This mandate will include all students in elementary or secondary school in private or public schooling. School staff will also be required to have been vaccinated. Since this is established by regulation as opposed to a law passed by the California legislature, there will be exemptions for medical and personal reasons.
Albert Ettedgui, Maria Carrillo assistant principal, said that the vaccine mandate will likely start on July 1, 2022 at MCHS, explaining, “The next term starts after January 1st, and that’s probably too soon to get everything lined up perfectly.” The Pfizer vaccine is approved under “emergency use authorization” for teenagers but does not yet have full FDA approval.
For MCHS senior Ryan Anderson, the decision between January and July will make all the difference. Anderson has chosen not to get vaccinated because he believes that he is “not in a risk group” or “in an age group that would be in danger” from the coronavirus. If the mandate does start as soon as January, he will “probably go to distance learning.”
For others, like an MCHS junior who wished to remain anonymous so she could avoid conflict with friends who disagree, the vaccine is important for safety reasons like protecting her peers. She will feel safer once a mandate is in place, but she thinks that it will unfortunately come with a “divide between people who do and don’t want the vaccine.” This junior sees the social aspect as the worst part of the mandate. Similar to how Gavin Newsom said it in the announcement, she said this COVID vaccine mandate can be compared to “immunizations and things that you need for school like to be vaccinated against polio.” To her, mandatory vaccination seems justified, but she believes the division in our school may take a toll.
Anderson does not see any positivity in this new rule: “I think it’s tyrannical if I’m being honest, and I think it’s absolute nonsense, [so] I will not be following, and I would imagine there are others who would follow in that path.” His belief is that personal choice is the priority, and students should have the freedom to get vaccinated or to not. For students in agreement with Anderson or who, for other reasons, will not be vaccinated, independent study may be an option, but the students cannot attend in-person instruction.
Debates around vaccination and the new vaccine mandates have caused passionate students to take a stand for their beliefs. On Oct. 18, according to The Press Democrat, about 200 Sonoma County parents and children missed work and school to protest the school vaccine mandate. It would seem some students will certainly feel happier and safer next year, while others may choose to be homeschooled rather than be forced to accept vaccination.