OPINION: Exemptions hinder statewide vaccine mandate

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By Daesha Gear

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s implementation of mandatory vaccination for K-12 students needs to be revised as it is disastrous for school board members, pro-vaccination parents and children.

The mandate offers vague personal belief exemptions, which allows vaccine skeptics to not vaccinate their children.

Newsom announced the vaccine mandate Oct.1, ordering K-12 students, both public and private, to be vaccinated once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves vaccinations for younger children.

California is the first state to meet this statewide requirement for K-12 students. However, there will likely be difficulties initially, especially regarding exemptions for personal beliefs.

California only offers 10 medical vaccination exemptions for children: chickenpox, diphtheria, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type B, measles, mumps, poliomyelitis, rubella and tetanus.

The COVID-19 vaccine is not currently listed as a mandatory vaccination children must have to attend schools.

However, Newsom proposes adding the requirement with the help of California’s State Legislature.

“To add to a well-established list that currently includes 10 vaccinations and well-established rules and regulations that have been advanced by the legislature for decades,” Newsom said. “To add to the list, the vaccination for COVID-19 — We intend to do that once the FDA has fully approved the vaccine, which will give us time to work with districts.”

Newsom contradicts himself, however, when asked if other exemptions like religion or philosophical beliefs would be considered, as opposed to solely considering medical exemptions.

“Yes, well, exemptions for medical reasons, personal and or religious beliefs, those are in the guidelines as well,” Newsom said.

Parents and guardians can use their personal beliefs as an exemption to not vaccinate their children since there is no authorization from the legislature to make the vaccine mandatory; this causes complications in Newsom’s proposed plan in keeping students safe.

Personal beliefs are a common reason, even for adults, to not get vaccinated or wear a mask. However, the issue with personal beliefs surrounding children makes this vaccine mandate more complicated as unvaccinated children could potentially expose other children, faculty and staff to COVID-19.

Parents who are adamant about masks and vaccines can easily use Newsom’s vague belief exemptions as an excuse not to vaccinate their children.

Newsom’s approval to include belief exemptions is a disservice to pro-vaccine parents who want their children to be protected from contracting COVID-19 from their teachers and peers.

Newsom’s vague guidelines also add more tension to the ongoing conflict between school board members and parents regarding COVID-19 restrictions toward children.

For example, vaccine skeptics from San Diego Unified School District went from protesting about the vaccine and mask mandates to harassing and giving death threats to school board members and parents complying with mask mandates.

Those threats are not restricted to the San Diego Unified School District. In Amador County, a parent was accused of assaulting a Sutter Creek Elementary School teacher for the perceived double standards of the mask mandate.

With the hesitance of skeptical parents and threats to school boards, it’s challenging to consider that K-12 institutions could easily enforce Newsom’s implementation of mandatory vaccination as multiple contradictory loopholes from Newsom hinder the safety of students and faculty from contracting COVID-19.

It’s problematic for Newsom to urge and implement a deadline for COVID vaccinations for K-12 students and include personal and religious exemptions — that ultimately defeats the purpose of keeping students and staff protected.

Newsom needs to reiterate his guidelines and make adjustments to them as it’s contradictory to the goal he aspires for California to meet: ending the pandemic.

“We want to end this pandemic,” Newsom said. “We’re all exhausted by it.”

Ending the pandemic is challenging to accomplish through Newsom’s contradictory implementation that gives leverage to vaccine skeptics to avoid vaccinating their children.

Newsom’s K-12 implementation does not create a haven for school board members or pro-vaccination parents. Instead, it causes more issues with skeptical parents regarding how COVID-19 should be mandated in K-12 institutions, and children are in the middle of this conflict.

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