Thursday, December 1, 2022

Should schools mandate vaccines?


Now that three vaccines are generally available that protect people from serious illness against Covid-19, school officials are struggling with the question of whether or not to require staff members and especially students to get vaccinated.

Students have no shortage of opinions when it comes to their schools requiring them to get vaccinated. Today we consider two opinion pieces in the student newspapers of Maryland and Illinois.

In Maryland’s largest school district, Montgomery County Public Schools in the suburbs of Washington, DC, school officials now require all staff members and student-athletes to get vaccinated (Should Illinois require student-athletes to get vaccinated?). Why? Because vaccines work, writes William Hallward-Driemeier in The Black & White at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda:

Vaccinations remain the community’s most optimal way of overcoming the pandemic. The shots significantly reduce the risks of not just severe illness, but infection itself. The vaccines are 88% effective at preventing symptomatic infection against the dangerous Delta variant. Unvaccinated people are 10 times more likely to contract, be hospitalized with and even die from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

In addition, he points out, a few large school districts in the US, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, have already mandated vaccines for students 12 and up. “Some might argue that requiring community members to receive injections against the virus goes against people’s autonomy over their bodies,” he writes. “But, … for years, the school district has required students to submit vaccination records for other illnesses.”

Many of those vaccines have been required of students for several decades, and some might also argue that the Covid-19 vaccines haven’t been tested as thoroughly over time as, say, the measles vaccine.

“Though there are other vaccines that are required for school, these vaccines have been around and tested for much longer, fostering more trust from parents regarding their safety,” opines Ria Patel in The Conant Crier, the student newspaper at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. “Parents and students need to be given a choice, especially because vaccination is something that can be daunting for many.”

Well, it’s not as daunting as Covid-19, that’s for sure. But maybe there’s a way to be more effective than we would be if we mandate the shots.

If schools want more parents to vaccinate their children, parents would likely be more open to the idea if encouraged by trusted physicians or medical professionals rather than being forced to by the district. Making vaccines mandatory will only make parents feel like the state is overstepping its boundaries and infringing on parental authority and decisions. Making the vaccine highly recommended is much more feasible than requiring it for all.
Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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