Cambridge School Committee OK COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Eligible Students
“We cannot stand idly by and let the virus destroy the future of our young people who have already suffered such a negative impact on their academic, social and emotional development,” Cambridge Superintendent Victoria Greer said in the proposal. mandate.
Cambridge’s mandate covers all eligible children, currently 12 years of age and older, and takes effective November 22. However, it does not prevent unvaccinated students from going to school, although it does prohibit them from participating in extracurricular activities, school-sponsored social events, or sports. Mandate would be expanded to include young children when vaccines become available for them.
Greer said the warrant would increase vaccination rates in the city, which are relatively low for older teens. As of September 28, according to state data, 56% of 16 to 19 year olds and 95% of 12 to 15 year olds had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“My priority is to maximize safe, in-person learning opportunities so that CPS can stay hyper-focused on helping every student recover and thrive in school,” Greer said in a statement to Boston. World. She noted that the mandate aligns with the recommendation of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association that eligible student athletes should be vaccinated.
The school committee’s action does not require further approval from the health department, a district spokeswoman said.
Gov. Charlie Baker said he believes the state should encourage vaccinations for young people, rather than impose them, especially as the vaccines are still under federal approval. Baker has lobbied to increase youth immunization rates by offering vaccinated students and staff the option of not wearing masks in schools where 80% or more of students and staff are fully immunized by October 15.
“We have put in some pretty serious incentives for them to improve their immunization rates,” Baker told GBH’s Boston Public Radio Sept. 16. “And I think that’s the right way to go when you’re facing a situation and a circumstance where. . . only a very small part is actually federally approved for children. “
In Massachusetts, several districts, including Boston, Cambridge, Newton, and Lexington, have adopted vaccination mandates for their teachers and public school staff. Corn California became the first state in the country to announce a COVID vaccine requirement for all middle and high school students last week, adding COVID to the list of required vaccines along with others such as measles, mumps and rubella, after full vaccine approval for their rating.
The COVID vaccine has been approved under emergency use authorization for 12 to 15 year olds and is awaiting full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has already approved the vaccine for people 16 years of age and older.
At Tuesday’s meeting, several parents testified against the warrant. One mother called it “despicable and illegal” and “discrimination against children who do not receive an experimental vaccine.”
” My children. . . are not your guinea pigs and are not owned by Pfizer, ”she said. “Medical coercion is bad. “
School committee member Jose Luis Rojas Villarreal, who cast the only vote against, said he did not want to impose vaccines that were not fully approved by the FDA. Member Ayesha Wilson said she believed the low adolescent vaccination rates reflected the district’s lack of education on vaccine safety.
“What tends to come up is, ‘I don’t think that’s safe,'” Wilson said as she heard from young people.
In response, Greer pledged to increase educational efforts.
Meanwhile, Dr Lisa Doberteen, a pediatrician and Cambridge public health official, said the city’s public health department and the school committee’s health and safety working group supported the mandate.
“This is the only way to put COVID in the rearview mirror,” said Rachel Weinstein, member.
Scientific experts praised the mandate, but said the lack of full approval of vaccines for young people could complicate governments’ ability to enforce stricter mandates legally and politically.
Cambridge parents Bill Hanage and Helen Jenkins, both epidemiologists, have said they support the mandate, which they say will increase adolescent vaccination rates, thereby reducing the number of people and households infected in Cambridge.
“It’s absolutely the right thing to do,” said Jenkins, associate professor of infectious diseases and biostatistics at Boston University.
Jenkins said she plans to vaccinate her children, ages 8 and 11, when they become eligible, assuming trial results for young children show side effects are rare as they have been until. ‘now.
Her husband, Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard, added that adolescents are the main drivers of transmission of COVID, so vaccinating larger portions of them will help better control the virus during the more months. cold, when people move indoors where the virus spreads more easily. Adolescents are more likely to be infected than to be vaccinated, he added.
“Because Delta is so transmissible, it’s really a choice between getting infected and getting vaccinated,” Hanage added.
Rosie Jones, who has a kindergarten child at Amigos Elementary School, said she would feel better to send her child to school knowing the class has been vaccinated, once vaccines are available for them. this age group.
“Every day right now, we are making tradeoffs between healthcare costs and others,” Jones said. “It’s good for children to go to school, and it will be even better when everyone is vaccinated.
Naomi Martin can be reached at [email protected]