Families want the choice over giving children COVID vaccine

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On Oct. 21, a group of Winters families and community members stood outside the Winters school district office protesting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s vaccine announcement. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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Some families and community members in Winters, Yolo County and across the state are asking their local school districts to reject Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mandate that all California students would need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine pending FDA approval of the vaccine for ages five and up.

In Winters, some families participated in a state-wide school walk-out on Monday, Oct. 18. Organizers asked families who are opposed to the vaccine mandate to keep their children home from school with an unexcused absence.

The Winters Joint Unified School District reported that there were 221 unexcused absences on Oct. 18. The Express’ Public Information Request asked for the total number of unexcused absences for the day, which did not confirm that they were all due to the walk-out.

The breakdown of unexcused absences by school site for Oct. 18:

  • Waggoner Elementary School: 46 unexcused absences (379 total enrollment)
  • Shirley Rominger Intermediate School: 65 unexcused absences (339 total enrollment).
  • Winters Middle School: 53 unexcused absences (329 total enrollment).
  • Winters High School: 51 unexcused absences (485 total enrollment).
  • Wolfskill Career Readiness Academy: Six unexcused absences (21 total enrollment).
  • Winters State Preschool Center: Zero unexcused absences (22 total enrollment).

Parents are organizing an additional statewide walkout for November.

Some Winters families and community members also participated in the Medical Choice Peaceful Protest on Thursday, Oct. 21 before and during the regularly scheduled Winters JUSD Board of Trustees meeting.

About 40 community members gathered along Grant Avenue  holding signs with messaging varying from stopping the mandate to wanting to have the choice over whether their children receive the vaccine.

Event organizer April Edgar told the Express she decided to organize a demonstration with members of the community who are opposed to the Governor’s vaccine mandate for children in order to attend school because she found that a surprisingly large number of them were willing to take action.

“While we are not ‘anti-vaxxers,’ we do not trust the timing, messaging, bribing, or ‘science’ behind this mandatory gene therapy,” said Edgar.

Edgar said she understands there are people who disagree with their stance on the matter, and voiced concern over the coronavirus vaccine make up vs. vaccines for Polio and Measles.

“You can’t even compare them as those vaccines have been around for decades and we have a lot of data to support their effectiveness,” said Edgar. 

Edgar said their hope is to show local decision-makers that some community members are united and to encourage them to reconsider abiding by the mandate. 

However, on Tuesday a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted in favor of authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee is scheduled to meet Nov. 2.

Multiple parents spoke during the Public Input session of the Oct. 21 school board meeting in opposition of the mandate and asked Trustees to give the choice to parents.

Jenny Churchman and Leslie Lucero both expressed concern regarding unknown effects it could have on growing children. They both said that Trustees should not be making the choice about whether children should be vaccinated or not, and that the choice should be left to families.

Lucero specifically requested Superintendent Diana Jiménez to “stand really strong and be brave to the powers that be because you’re our voice.” 

President Carrie Green said they would submit all of the public input from the meeting as statement records with the county.

Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson told the Express in an email that she currently has no plans to mandate the vaccine for children locally. Once a coronavirus vaccine is authorized for children ages 5-11 and has been found to be safe and effective she would strongly recommend the age group get vaccinated as she has for every other age group the vaccine has been approved for.

“At this point in time, vaccination against COVID is a parent’s choice,” Sisson said.

Sisson said the Governor has announced that he plans to mandate vaccinations in school once the vaccine has full FDA approval for the 5-11 age group.

“There is no mandate in effect now, and there is unlikely to be one for any minors until at least July 2022. If and when a mandate goes into effect, it will be a State mandate, not a local mandate,” Sisson told the Express.

Sisson encourages community members to contact the State regarding concerns over the vaccine.

Jiménez told the Express in an email that it is everyone’s right to express their support or opposition to political themes.

“I believe one of the most efficient and effective ways for people to share their concerns regarding state leaders’ decisions is to address their concerns through letter, email, and phone calls to our legislative leaders, to the State Board of Education, and to the Governor,” Jiménez said. “When meeting with leaders at the Yolo County Office of Education, I can share the points of view from our community, which is expressing strong points of view across the spectrum of support for vaccinations and masking, and strong opposition to both as well.”

Oscar Garcia, Interim Student Services Coordinator and WMS Assistant Principal, announced in community messaging that details regarding the announced mandate and exemption protocols and guidance have not yet been released. 

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