It is a topic which has begun gaining steam and question, as Oakdale parents and community members have begun expressing their disproval of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which Governor Gavin Newsom announced earlier this month. The governor has stated that once the vaccine receives FDA approval, the school term following the approval it will be required of students grades 7-12 for in person learning. It will later be rolled out to grades K-6. The governor has instructed California Department of Health (CDPH) to follow procedures already established by the Legislature. This is a directive aimed at adding the COVID-19 vaccine to other vaccinations required for in-person learning.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella – there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19,” Newsom said in a previous press conference at a San Francisco school.
“Today’s measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom,” said Governor Newsom. “Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
On Monday, Oct. 18, parents, families and activists from across the state traveled to the State Capitol in Sacramento to demonstrate their disapproval of Governor Newsom’s latest ruling.
It has been reported that the permit pulled for the demonstration was for attendance of 2500 and the actual number far exceeded that estimate.
Since early in the school year, Oakdale parents, as well as community members have voiced their disapproval of masking and now the vaccine mandate with Oakdale Joint Unified Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Dave Kline as well as board members via phone calls, e-mails and in person attendance to the monthly board meetings.
On Monday, while some parents chose to participate in the state wide “walk-out,” by keeping their students at home, some traveled to the Capitol to protest in unity.
Parents Melissa Goodman and Katie Rogers are two of the reported 40 who made the road trip from Oakdale. Goodman began a Facebook group during the Pandemic of 2020 called “Let Them Learn - Oakdale,” to serve as a platform for local parents to discuss thoughts, frustrations and ideas during the shutdowns and Distance Learning.
“It was a very first protest. Before all of this I was not a super political person and I don’t know that I’m super political even at this point,” Goodman shared. “I know what’s wrong is wrong and I don’t like injustice and I especially don’t like it when it’s against children or taking away people’s freedoms.”
As far as the actual protest, she said it did remain peaceful.
“I had no idea what to expect going up,” she admitted. “But I was pleasantly surprised. Everybody was just supporting each other and it just felt good to be a part of something where it’s like everybody supported you. You know, standing up for this is we’re proving a point and even if it goes nowhere, people came together in support of something we strongly believe in.”
A self-professed “political junkie,” Rogers shared many of the same sentiments from the day as Goodman.
“Even though I’m a political junkie, it was my first protest. And I was just very surprised, it just felt like so much love,” Rogers said. “So many people who care about each other and care about each other’s children. People from so many different walks of life, every single ethnicity and race, every single economic background. People who are vaccinated, people who are not vaccinated, people who are religious people, who are not religious, like it was just every single demographic was there fighting for the same thing.”
Both parents agree on the most common stereotype which is unfortunate. Their stance, they stressed, is against the vaccine mandate, it is not against the vaccine. Both mothers shared they are not opposed to the vaccine, but rather opposed to the government telling them children must receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to receive an education.
“I fundamentally have an objection to the government forcing anyone to do anything with their bodies,” Rogers said of her opposition to the proposed mandate. “I mean, that is the core of my political ideology. But that is my personal objection; I don’t have objections to any of the other vaccines. My kids are fully vaccinated. So when I look at this specific vaccine and the choice I would make for my children. I would choose not to do it simply because I don’t feel like there’s enough data to give it validity not only with its efficacy, but also with its status.”
“My children are both fully vaccinated and, like Katie, I never had an issue of vaccinating my kids,” Goodman sated. “It’s about choice, if you want to vaccinate, we will stand with you. You don’t want to vaccinate, we will stand with you. You want to wear a mask, we will stand with you. You don’t want to wear masks, we will stand with you. Giving the facts of freedom and choice to the individual person. Katie and I have talked about this, we just feel like everybody’s choice and freedom should be honored and that that is not something that should be taken away from anyone.”
The mothers of school age children shared, they do feel they have been heard by the board via past meetings, e-mails and the like. Rogers removed her students from Oakdale schools last year, while Goodman’s son is currently a senior at Oakdale High. The mandate for student vaccination they both shared they feel is being directed on the weakest part of the population, children, because they don’t have the constitutional right to refuse.
“I think we need to take a step back and really look at the science, reevaluate the vaccine because now we know, what people suspected; that it’s not stopping or slowing transmission,” Rogers said. “Instead of looking at how we thought the vaccine was going to go, looking at how it’s going, where are we with natural immunity with herd immunity, where we have natural immunity, and taking a step back, because it’s like, all these plans were put in place when the vaccine first came out. They’re still rolling with them, even though there’s all this new information. It’s just being completely ignored and pushed aside.”
“I think we can’t give up,” Goodman said of continuing to speak up on her belief. “We’re writing letters and going up to Sacramento. I mean, I think that’s part of the misconception that our local government sort of has control over this issue.
“I want our superintendent to do the same thing,” she continued. “I want him writing letters. I want him speaking up on behalf of our children.”