San Diego School Board Approves Vaccine Mandate for Students and Staff

By Yudi Hu
Yudi Hu
Yudi Hu
September 29, 2021 Updated: September 30, 2021

The San Diego Unified Board of Education voted unanimously Sept. 28 to pass a proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all employees and eligible students age 16 years and older.

The Vaccination Roadmap approved by the board on Sept. 28 requires district employees, partners, contractors, and other adults to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20, or they will face unemployment.

The San Diego Unified school board recommended a staggered approach for students. At the current stage, only students age 16 or older are required to be vaccinated by Dec. 20 to register for in-person classes. Students age 12 and older and 5 and older will be required to be vaccinated upon the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) full approval of the vaccine for their age groups.

The Vaccination Roadmap offers students a medical exemption from the vaccine; however, a religious or personal belief exemption is not recognized.

The board meeting was held via Zoom and allowed for public comments from individuals who oppose and support the mandate.

“Just looking at the list of speakers, there were over 1651 registered people to speak in opposition to this, so if that doesn’t tell you what the parents want, then you are not listening,” Mari Magstadt, a parent in the district, said during the Sept. 28 board meeting.

“As a mother, this is where I draw the line. I will not give my children an experimental shot that is in clinical trials until 2023. This is not following the science. This is a total abuse of power.”

Brenda Taylor, a 25-year-old elementary school teacher in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), criticized the board’s lack of transparency.

“This flawed proposal that you’re hiding behind the word of science as if it’s absolute. We know that science is not perfect. … The mandate is not based on science because it fails to take into account the latest observations,” Taylor said. “Data from Australia Today says that 78 percent of those in the hospital are [vaccinated]. Contrafactual data shows that schools all over the world remained open without vaccinated staff.”

There were also parents who spoke in favor of the vaccine mandate.

“We have already had several COVID cases since school reopened and we fear more. … The FDA-approved vaccine is the best that human science has to offer,” said Mica Pollock, a high school parent from SDUSD.

“If you want to live alone in a bunker and unvaccinated or just work and go to school online, go for it. Otherwise, we live in a shared community. … Vaccine mandates aren’t new. It’s just public health. … Freedom is the freedom to be together post-vaccine without masks, without fear, without threatening each other’s lives. We get to that freedom through being vaccinated.”

Dr. Sergio Flores, president of the San Diego County Medical Society and vice-chair of the board of the California Medical Association, also spoke in support of the vaccine mandate.

“You have a 34 times increased risk if you are not vaccinated. … [Children] can also develop long-term COVID symptoms. Although they may not have symptoms, they can spread it to unvaccinated individuals, which can lead to hospitalizations,” Dr. Flores said.

Suzanne Lockyer, a U.S. Army veteran and Pfizer employee of eight years, with a specialty in molecular cellular and developmental biology, said she’s tired of the smear campaign.

“We are not a fringe vocal minority, we are part of the 65 percent of parents, at least, who do not want a mandated medical decision. I am extremely pro-science, and I fully recognize the valuable role vaccines play in public health, but this one is new and different, and we do not yet know all the short-term and long-term effects. What we do know is our children are at very little risk of complications of COVID,” Lockyer said.

Attendee Diane Wall questioned why students who are foster youth, homeless, migrant, military, or have an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) are able to be conditionally enrolled in person without the vaccine, while other students are required to be vaccinated.

The board responded by saying that students with an IEP will have to go through a more extensive process for state-wide mandated vaccines, and the board will continue to go through the process while granting them conditional enrolling. As for foster youth, some of their immunization records might have been lost or delayed due to frequent moving and therefore are granted conditional in-person learning and 30 days to obtain their immunization records.

The current data of San Diego Unified shows that 80.7 percent of their employees have received at least 1 dose and 76 percent are fully vaccinated; 64.6 percent of students age 12 and older received at least 1 dose, and 57.2 percent are fully vaccinated.

Yudi Hu