Nearly a dozen parents and teachers on Tuesday threatened to pull their children from Lodi Unified School District, as well as vote board of education members out of office, if the latter chose to follow vaccine mandates for students.
“All we’ve heard is follow the science,” parent and teacher Brooke Shanhardt said during public comment at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
“But they should be saying follow the money, because this is no longer about science,” she said. “And I know you know that, I’ve heard you speak it, I’ve heard you say things like ‘our hands are tied.’ We know you care about kids. I know you have a hard time sleeping at night, knowing there are parents that are not comfortable with this injection going into their child’s arm.”
Members of the Lodi Unified community voiced opposition to mandated vaccines for their students just days after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced all students 12 and older would be required to get them to remain on campus for in-person instruction.
The COVID-19 vaccination will be added to the list of required vaccinations to attend school once the Food and Drug Administration approves its use for middle and high school grades.
The requirement will take effect at the beginning of the term following full approval, which the governor’s office expects to be July 1, 2022.
However, local health jurisdictions and school districts are being encouraged to implement requirements ahead of a statewide requirement based on circumstances, the governor said.
Shanhardt said that over the weekend, she had read several comments on Lodi Unified social media pages that parents will be removing their children from the district because they did not want them receiving the vaccine.
She said she had read similar comments posted to Galt Joint Union Elementary School District’s social media pages as well.
“We know there are reasons they are not safe for children,” she said. “There are studies after studies to show it. I’m tired of being told it’s all conspiracies, it’s lies. Doctors are coming forward right and left. There are 10,000 doctors that signed a petition that this is crimes against humanity. Blocking preventative measures for COVID so that people will be forced to take a vaccine is wrong and we all know it.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, now known as Comrinaty, is 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 12-15, and 91% effective in preventing severe illness with the virus in people 16 and older.
Early research suggests the vaccine is 96% effective at preventing disease caused by the COVID-19 delta variant, which is currently surging across the nation, the organization said.
The Food and Drug Administration reviewed a study of more than 2,200 children ages 12-15 in the U.S., of which about half were given the Pfizer vaccine and the rest were given a placebo.
A week after the second dose of the vaccine was given, the Mayo Clinic said research showed no cases of COVID-19 in the 1,005 children that received it. Among the 978 who were given a placebo, 16 cases of COVID-19 emerged.
Parent Chris Adam said that he understood the district and the school board must follow any mandates implemented by the state. And while he would not hold school officials accountable, he said he’d hold them accountable for not letting parents make decisions for their children.
“I think it’s really important the school board know a lot of us don’t feel the vaccines are safe,” he said. “And I hope that they make decisions in trying to mitigate having us pull our children out of the school system and find alternative ways to get our kids educated. One way that I think might work, is what other school districts are doing. They’re having a waiver due to religious beliefs or personal beliefs.”
When Newsom made his mandate announcement last week, it included a small caveat that parents could opt their children out of vaccinations based on personal beliefs.
However, he did not include the criteria for obtaining those exemptions, leaving that decision up to California Department of Public Health officials.
Students 12 years of age and older are enrolled in grades 7-12, and state law mandates they be immunized with a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster before attending the seventh grade. A chickenpox vaccination is also required.
Younger children are required to get a variety of vaccines and immunizations, including those that protect against polio, measles, mumps and rubella; hepatitis B and chickenpox, all before entering kindergarten.
A child’s first tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis shot is required before Kindergarten as well.
Personal belief exemptions have not been allowed for any vaccines or immunizations since 2015, according to the California Department of Education.
“I think it’s important that we’re not going to listen to the state,” Adam said. “Whatever they mandate, I think you guys are just screwed. You’re going to do what they tell you to do, and whether you agree with it or not, it's not you’re fault.”
Other speakers weren’t as forgiving as Adam. Reese Mahoney doesn’t have children, but said if he and his wife were parents, they would move out of the state before enrolling their children at Lodi Unified.
He said parents speaking Tuesday night wanted answers, either through a town hall meeting, a questions and answers session, or responses to emails.
“It makes me sad to see people so upset with our board members, and it’s sad that we don’t see any of you go to bat for any of our parents, students or staff,” he said. “You’re not giving us a choice with this mandate, and we can see that our human rights are being taken away from us. Government overreach will not end unless you come down to our level and get involved. We will not support this. We don’t want to hear from you down the road that ‘your hands were tied and didn’t know the effects.’ We have told you and will continue to tell you that a mandated, experimental vaccine is not acceptable or safe for our children.”
The Mayo Clinic said the children in the FDA’s trials who received the Pfizer vaccine experienced the same side effects as those found in people 16 and older.
Those include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain.
In addition, the Mayo Clinic said side effects in children typically last one to three days, much like they do in adults, the organization said.
According to San Joaquin County Public Health’s weekly COVID-19 report, 58.1% of the eligible population has been vaccinated as of Wednesday. In Lodi, 68.3% have been fully vaccinated.
County public health also reported that less than 1% of the fully vaccinated population experienced breakthrough COVID-19 cases.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that out of the 386 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the U.S. between Dec. 14, 2020 and Sept. 20, 2021, there have been 7,899 reports of death among those were vaccinated.
However, the CDC also said that adverse effects following vaccination, including death, do not necessarily mean a vaccine caused a health problem.
The Brown Act prohibited board members from responding to speakers during public comment Tuesday.