It is not up for debate that under vaccination is a problem costing lives. The New York Times estimates that between July and August, 16,000+ preventable deaths occurred due to lack of vaccination. An analysis from the Associated Press highlights that nearly all lives lost to Covid belong to the unvaccinated. The various reasons why Americans are refusing the vaccine are not well-kept secrets, and it’s surely not due to any lack of doses. The deep politicization of vaccines has greatly contributed to a distinct absence of more vaccine mandates. Just look at how hysterical conspiracy theories are teaming up with a lack of trust in institutions, underestimation of COVID-19, and miseducation on how the vaccine works to plague the minds of many Americans into selfishly rejecting the jab. This could all be so conveniently solved by a vaccine mandate.
Whether or not you trust or accept the CDC, it remains the best, most credible option for medical information on COVID. The CDC stands by the vaccine as completely safe, regardless of variant and now almost every age as Pfizer has officially asked the FDA to approve its vaccine for kids ages 5-11. This means that soon, nearly every student enrolled in ICCSD will be eligible for a vaccine. The fact that receiving a vaccine is safer than going without one is backed up by an ever-growing mountain of evidence, dedicated to debunking misinformation on the topic. It really is true that only a fraction of people that received the vaccine had severe symptoms. A representative for the CDC has noted that only 11 out of one million people report having an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine. The bottom line is that the vaccine is safe.
ICCSD definitely has the facilities to conduct and enforce a vaccine mandate. Although legality is another potential concern, ICCSD definitely has the legal ability to do so. Code 641.7, the existing immunization law passed by the Iowa Legislature, outlines the legality for a school district to establish a vaccine mandate. All US public schools already have required immunizations for students, this shouldn’t be, and isn’t any different. This is great for all advocates of public health and those who wish to keep kids safe. Various school districts across the country have already started to take measures to increase vaccination numbers in their schools. The Los Angeles United School District has put in place a vaccine mandate for staff and students that are 12 years of age and older in early September. Those who are eligible in the LAUSD have until January 10, 2022, to get vaccinated. The Sacramento Unified School District has adhered to its motto of “keeping children safe,” and has also implemented a vaccine mandate which will come into effect November 30. New York City has also already mandated the vaccine for educators, having all teachers and staff vaccinated would undoubtedly be a win. Unfortunately, that would only be the bare minimum. The well-being and health of many other students would still be in jeopardy, making it a sacrifice we cannot afford. When we consider the doability of mandating vaccines in our district, it’s important to note that these examples are all far larger than ICCSD. For example, LAUSD is a district that serves over 600,000 students. If districts of this magnitude have the ability to establish and enforce a vaccine mandate, ICCSD certainly can as well.
Again, there are already vaccination requirements in place for students in public schools: it’s required for every student enrolled in kindergarten to have certain immunizations before they begin school, and students must get more vaccinations before they start in junior high as well. The Covid vaccine should be no different. As obvious as it may seem, the question of whether vaccine mandates actually result in more vaccinations must be decisively answered: they do. This can be seen through the positive results of such precaution. The efficacy of these vaccine mandates is clear in data collected by the CDC/NCHS and Census from efforts to reduce the prevalence of the varicella virus (chickenpox) in people ages 17 and under. These endeavors were successful, as the number of cases decreased from well over 2 million cases in 1999 to just under 280,000 cases in 2015. This overwhelming success can be attributed to mandated immunizations from schools, as with the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine and school mandates of immunization cases dramatically decreased in students. This is not an isolated incident; vaccines for smallpox, polio, tetanus, rubella, and many others have shown significant reductions in cases in schools. Covid-19 is a once-in-a-lifetime level of efficiently contagious virus that requires an appropriately efficient response. A Covid vaccine in our school district has the potential to save student lives by preventing and reducing Covid cases, just like so many school vaccine mandates have done in the past.
The need for a COVID-19 vaccination mandate in the ICCSD is supported by comprehensive scientific research and a plethora of successful historical examples of school-mandated immunizations. The question is no longer whether or not we should implement vaccine mandates in schools, in all honesty, it should never have been. We must now ask, when, and how.