NEW ORLEAN – Allison Cruz has three children in public schools, all of whom have already been vaccinated. Two of them actually participated in testing for the COVID-19 vaccine for children. So for her, because Louisiana requires students to be vaccinated against viruses such as polio, measles, mumps and rubella, There is no reason to treat COVID-19 differently.
“It’s absolutely safe and good. This is the world we live in. Children get vaccinated for school and that is part of it. I want schools to be safe and healthy places for children, ”said Cruz, aged four, eight and 11. “It’s time to believe in science and we need to do it because it’s the right thing to do to protect each other,” he said.
SEE: Answers to your questions about COVID vaccines for children
At the Louisiana State Capitol on Dec. 6, a debate on vaccine requirements for schoolchildren took center stage, with parents and lawmakers calling on the Louisiana Department of Health to require COVID-19 vaccine for most school children. protested.
State health officials say the benefits are available and that the offer is not a mandate.
Growing political disparities over policies and vaccines are widening across the country, but especially in a state where vaccination rates are still 36 percent in some areas, the figure is 49 percent.
If implemented, Louisiana would become the second state to require vaccinations for public school students. In October, California became the first state announcement of COVID-19 vaccine requirements for schools in the country.
Eleven-year-old Abigail Little, who lives in East Feliciana Church, took a break from school to protest. “We need to have the right to choose what is in our bodies. If we don’t want to do that, everything is in place. If our parents don’t think the vaccine is safe for us, I think it’s our choice. Please say no, ”he said.
After seven and a half hours of testimony, on Dec. 6, the Louisiana House panel voted 13-2 to reject the controversial COVID vaccine proposal for schools by the majority, but the governor still promised to move forward without their help. If Governor John Bel Edwards repeals the House Health and Welfare Committee’s action, the new rules could take effect until next fall.
Opposition groups such as Louisiana House Speaker Clay Sheksneider have tried to block this, calling it “excessive government influence.”
“I never imagined before COVID that I would oppose the administration’s demand that school-age students be shot at the will of their parents, but we are here.” said Sheksneider. “It’s not the same as other vaccines and they don’t have to be treated that way. There is only one reason to do this in a hurry. It’s just politics. ”
If it goes into effect, the initial introduction of the vaccine requirement will only apply to age groups where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the vaccine. Currently, this is only for high school students aged 16 and older. State health officials testified that the vaccine requirement saved lives for them.
“The vaccines available are a real gift,” he said. Changing this rule is a priority for the Department of Health because we believe that the loss of life, especially the loss of young lives, that occurred during the 21 months of this pandemic is simply unbearable, ”said Dr. Joseph. Kanter, chief. Louisiana Department of Health. “A total of 18 children in Louisiana died of COVID-19. Nine of them died during our recent Delta ascent. Many more were hospitalized.”
Ahead of a supervisory hearing last week, Governor Edwards was preparing to protest. Edwards points out that 25 percent of all known cases in Louisiana are children 18 or younger and in his view, this figure is understated because it has not been tested in young people. Edwards said requiring a vaccine is a necessary measure to control the spread of the virus.
“The risk of COVID-19 for these young people is so great that the vaccine is guaranteed,” Edwards said at a press conference on Friday, Dec. 3. it is also important not to deal with misinformation. Unless there are serious reasons I haven’t seen yet, I hope we can add the vaccine to the schedule.
Louisiana has the widest benefits in the country for students and parents who want to waive school immunization requirements, with a letter from a health worker or a simple signature by a person subject to the vaccine request. Exceptions are now allowed for religious reasons, medical reasons, and even philosophical objections. Still, the committee room was full of people who were primarily opposed to the plan.
Ashley Rivera, who has five children in public schools, said: “It seems we are being deprived of all our rights. “Our children have no voice in any of these oppressions, and we are united here to be their voice.”
Susanna Rose, a parent, said she still doesn’t believe in science. “I have a choice and it should remain my own, whether I chose to give my child this experimental COVID shot or not because my child is a healthy 12-year-old boy. I’m not ready to risk his future, “said David Cook, chief of The Christian Science Monitor’s Washington bureau.
Strict clinical trials have shown that COVID vaccines are safe and effective. While mild, short-term side effects (such as hand pain) are possible, the health risks of not being vaccinated and contracting the virus are much more serious.
Health officials have objected to suggestions that COVID-19 is not a serious threat to children and that vaccines are experimental.
“Vaccines are the only best tool we have to fight,” Kanter said. “We need to encourage and promote their use, while continuing to respect the traditions of parental autonomy that have served us well in Louisiana.”
In an article published in The Advocate magazine, Louisiana’s largest newspaper, last weekend, Dr. Mark Klein, chief physician at New Orleans Children’s Hospital, said: The demand for vaccines for students is a simple idea”. “Unfortunately, we are starting to vaccinate young children against COVID-19 very slowly. In three weeks, we vaccinated 946 children aged 5-11 at a New Orleans children’s hospital, but Louisiana,” Klein wrote, demanding more vaccines among children. Less than three percent of children in this age group have received their first dose of the vaccine, making us in the top three nationally (Mississippi and Alabama). We need to do better. “ More than 2 million children nationwide or 7% of children aged 5-11 years were hit for the first time.
The fate of the plan could be decided by the courts, with Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and the Democratic Edwards administration questioning whether the coronavirus vaccine request could be legally passed by the governor without the full support of the state legislature. in opposition. Landry brought Bobby Kennedy Jr., a well-known activist against the vaccine, to testify with him.
“This proposed rule has no basis. I would advise you that announcing the inclusion of COVID-19 vaccines recommended by the LDH in the list of vaccines required for school admission is not allowed under state law, ”Landry told the committee on Monday. I ask you to regain the powers of the police of this state. We cannot allow the legislature to evade its constitutional responsibilities by allowing the executive to create legislative policy using the legislature. [order]”.
Cruz told PBS NewsHour that he was outraged by such remarks by elected officials and called “this duty rude.” For his family, it’s a way to keep the kids in school, and he applauds Edwards for taking a hard line.
“I am very pleased with the governor for this pandemic. He justified himself and did his best in a terrible situation, ”Cruz said. “I’m grateful that he is willing to commit political suicide from voters to do the right thing.”
Eighty-three percent of current COVID hospitalizations in Louisiana are among unvaccinated people. Between 18 and 24 November, those who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 82 percent of cases and 71 percent of deaths. According to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH). Kanter said efforts to slow numbers and increase vaccines have been hampered by misinformation.
After the trial, Kanter blew up some of the instructions calls it a “negligence” in a tweet “Prominent and well-known national anti-wax activists came to Louisiana today to deliberately spread misinformation about the vaccine.” “No one will ever have to be vaccinated against their will,” Kanter said.
However, in a two-party vote, lawmakers voted against the proposal with the support of three Democrats and an independent, even on the condition that the parents reject it.
“This mandate is a disgrace to Louisiana,” he said. Removing parental decision-making authority over a child’s health is not a requirement imposed by the LDH, said Republican State Sen. Cameron Henry.
Cruz, whose husband is a doctor, said adding this vaccine to schools and high school students would be another step to end a 21-month nightmare for her and her children.
“I think the demand for vaccines is a step towards sustainability because I don’t think COVID will ever end. Our kids will be doing this for a long time,” Cruz said. I don’t want them to go to school, I want them to live. They deserve it. “