The signs at scattered rallies across California on Monday were familiar to anyone who followed the state’s decades-long childhood vaccine wars.
“Our children are not laboratory rats.” “My body is my choice.” “Coercion is not consent.”
California required all schoolchildren to eventually receive COVID-19 vaccines, making it the first and only state to do so. In protest, some parents took their children out of school on Monday and took to the streets in Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Vacaville, Sacramento and other cities.
At the heart of this struggle is a complex truth: California’s new student vaccination requirements have not yet begun, but the state already has a surprisingly low number of outbreaks in schools.
Of the 2,321 nationwide schools that have closed since August due to COVID-19, about 1% were in California, although the state accounts for 12% of the country’s K-12 students, according to data from Burbio, a technology company that tracks the outbreaks. …
So some parents may wonder if camouflage, testing, and other prevention strategies work so well, why is the government adding a requirement for immunization?
Simply put, vaccines are the best tool for getting rid of people from coronavirus infection. You are probably already familiar with these numbers, but Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines prevented approximately 95% of symptomatic diseases in clinical trials.
And while experts say California classroom safety measures are very effective, the fall semester also coincided with a sharp drop in coronavirus spread across the state. In other words, additional protection may be required if cases start growing again.
Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California Board of Education, told me she sees vaccines as the next step in the state’s response to the pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom has often been criticized for imposing the restrictions, such as in July, when he mandated universal camouflage in schools – only for the move to be later approved by federal officials.
“Science works if you are very, very persistent and determined in its implementation,” Darling-Hammond told me. “I think there is a human tendency to say that once things get good, okay, we can take our foot off the gas.” We can not “.
Darling-Hammond said the state needs to be prepared for new options. Vaccinating children will not only protect them from infection, but also limit the spread of the virus, which can lead to new mutations.
Statewide, 71% of Californians 12 and older are fully immunized, one of the highest rates in the country, according to a study by The New York Times. The percentage is lower for the youngest eligible age group, 12 to 17 years old, at around 57%.
But there are many differences across the state, and school outbreaks tend to hit low-coverage locations, Darling-Hammond told me.
Counties that have closed several schools this fall include Kern (where 43% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated), Tehama (41%) and Lassen (32%).
The state does not have uniform guidelines for when a school should close in response to an outbreak, so closure numbers are not a perfect indicator of how many students and teachers are getting sick. However, they give an idea of where and how often large outbreaks cover huge areas.
Statewide, student vaccination requirements are not expected to go into effect until July – first for seventh grade and above, then kindergarten through sixth grade – and only after vaccines for these age groups are fully approved by the FDA. for the quality of food and medicine. (Currently, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received full FDA approval – and that’s only for people 16 and older.)
As for other childhood vaccines, California banned parents in 2016 from invoking their religious beliefs to refuse to vaccinate their children after the number of unvaccinated students became dangerously high.
But officials say parents will be allowed to opt out of the COVID-19 vaccine if they feel it is against their personal beliefs.