Reports of Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccine for Students Draw Ire of Orange County Parents 

April 8, 2021 Updated: April 8, 2021

Hundreds of parents gathered at the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) April 7 over concerns COVID-19 vaccines would become mandatory for students without parental consent.

During a regularly scheduled OCDE board meeting, more than 100 people spoke out against a widely-circulating—and unverified—claim that Orange County’s top doctor would force public school students to be inoculated.

Another group of parents remained outside the district building in Costa Mesa to protest.

However, the OCDE—alongside Orange County’s top doctor—have said there are no plans to do force vaccines on children.

County health officer Dr. Clayton Chau on April 8 called the accusations leveled against him “far from the truth.”

“Treatment for children is California state law, so a health officer cannot go against the state law,” Chau told reporters during a press conference. “I certainly do not have the authority to take away the parental rights. I have never believed in not involving the parents.”

Concerned Parents

Chau’s comments were preceded on April 7 by a rush of comments from Orange County parents, who used the OCDE’s board meeting to speak up about their vaccine concerns.

One mother said children have experienced enough hardships as a result of the pandemic, and should not be pressured into getting the vaccine to open up schools.

“We are creating so much fear [in our children],” she told the board. “To come along and say everyone in this classroom must have a vaccine, or everyone must wear a mask and be social distancing—we cannot put that pressure on children. We have put enough pressure on them.”

Another parent played a clip for the board from an April 1 Zoom call between Chau and Orange County Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares, which is circulating widely on social media.

In the video, Chau said the vaccine is “100 percent effective for children … We’re going to need your support to educate our kids and our parents that they have to accept the vaccine. Because I feel very strongly that without the vaccine, we have no way out of this pandemic.”

District Response

The OCDE issued a statement on April 7 prior to the meeting that reads: “California plans to open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to residents 16 and older on April 15, but all COVID-19 vaccinations remain strictly voluntary.

“To put it another way, immunizations against COVID-19 are not mandated in California—or anywhere else in the U.S. And in fact they can’t be required based on the emergency use authorizations that allowed the current COVID-19 vaccines to enter the market.”

It said it had no intentions of breaking away from those guidelines.

“The State of California, the County of Orange and local school districts are also not requiring students or staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of resuming in-person instruction, which is already offered at the vast majority of Orange County schools,” it stated.

Answering to Allegations

During the OCDE meeting, many parents accused Chau of saying that schools cannot remove their COVID-19 safety measures—such as social distancing and mask mandates—until children are fully vaccinated.

Chau clarified that to return to normalcy, the population as a whole must become vaccinated.

“I strongly believe that we need to achieve herd immunity through vaccination, in order for us to get out of the pandemic. … But I don’t know how does that fit into all children get vaccinated, I don’t know where that came from,” he said.

Dr. Jeff Barke, a primary care doctor and co-founder of Orange County Classical Academy, said his school will “never be a vaccine center, and we will never vaccinate a child without parental consent.”

Barke questioned the vaccine’s use in children since it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and they are “being used under emergency use authorization with limited safety data and no long-term safety studies.

“The parents of Orange County will not stand for this.”