Mead School Board votes to oppose efforts to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for students

<p><p>The Mead School Board voted unanimously Monday to oppose efforts to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for K-12 students.</p></p><p><p>The decision was made two days before the state Board of Health will receive an update on the possibility of mandating vaccines, though the state board has said no mandate will be voted on at the meeting.</p></p><p><p>The district recently solicited responses to an online survey about a potential vaccine mandate. The district said 51% of more-than 3,000 respondents said they would remove children from the Mead School District rather than have their child vaccinated if no exemption was allowed.</p></p><p><p>The board’s decision, along with the survey data gathered by the district, will be sent to the state Board of Health.</p></p><p><p>“We’ve reached out to the community, we’ve asked for their input and we’re hearing both sides,” said school board member BrieAnne Gray, who won her board seat in the November election on a platform that included opposition to mask and vaccine mandates. “We’ve been able to pass this information and those comments onto the state Board of Health before they make their decision so we can be a part of this discussion.”</p></p><p><p>The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that most children 5 and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The academy also suggests that “jurisdictions should consider the most effective measures to ensure maximum vaccination of all eligible individuals and should coordinate appropriately with local and state immunization efforts, including immunization information systems.”</p></p><p><p>From Jan. 1 through Dec. 26 in 2021, 11 people with COVID-19 from infants through age 19 died in Washington, according to the state Department of Health. From Dec. 12 through Dec. 26, 45 people in that age group were hospitalized in the state.</p></p><p><p>In November, the Seattle School Board voted unanimously to urge the state Board of Health to approve a vaccine mandate for students.</p></p><p><p>Multiple Mead School Board members said they hope that other school boards also will take positions on a possible vaccine mandate. </p></p><p><p>Monday’s Mead meeting started in person, but soon after, Board President Chad Burchard shut down the meeting after multiple attendees refused to wear masks and vocally opposed Burchard’s attempt to follow the state mask rules.</p></p><p><p>COVID-19 cases are soaring locally, including in the Mead School District, which confirmed 468 cases among students and staff during and after winter break.</p></p><p><p>The meeting restarted virtually an hour later with a 35-minute public comment period during which all but one of the nine people who testified spoke against vaccine mandates, mask mandates or both.</p></p><p><p>“We have the ability to turn this around, to dig in our heels, and say ‘No. We’re going to be a district that thinks critically, we’re going to be a district that educates our children and our families about what choice looks like,” Jay Pounder commented.</p></p><p><p>Some who testified criticized the decision to end the in-person meeting.</p></p><p><p>“I really, really hope that when the Washington State Board of Health implements that requirement, because I have a very good feeling that they will, you as Mead School Board and the district do not fold in the face of that like you did tonight faced with a few mothers who wouldn’t wear a mask,” Emilee Combs commented.</p></p><p><p>The Washington Board of Health is studying the possibility of mandating a COVID-19 vaccine for students. The idea will be discussed at a state health board meeting on Wednesday, but no decision will be made.</p></p><p><p>Instead, the board will consider a proposal that would prevent the state from mandating any vaccine for students if the vaccine has not been fully approved by the Federal Drug Administration.</p></p><p><p>So far, the FDA has fully approved only the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and older.</p></p><p><p>The Pfizer vaccine has received emergency authorization from the FDA to be used for children 5 to 15.</p></p><p><p>The Moderna and Johnson &amp; Johnson vaccines have not been fully approved by the FDA yet.</p></p><p><p>The resolution approved by the Mead School Board claims that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate would “result in irreparably broken trust with the community” and “create an unreasonable administrative burden” on the district.</p></p>