Hundreds of demonstrators descended on California’s Capitol on Monday to protest the state’s upcoming COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students.
“I don’t think that’s fair if it’s forced upon them,” said Grady Gaal, who was in attendance.
The 11-year-old missed his fifth-grade class at Oak Meadow Elementary School in El Dorado Hills to participate in the walkout with his mother, Amy Gaal.
“We have four kids in our family. My husband’s been vaccinated. My daughter’s been vaccinated. It’s not about that. It’s about having the choice,” Amy said.
The crowd gathered at the north steps of the Capitol, listening to speeches on the topic.
“Right now, our governor and the Legislature need to hear our voice. Will we be silent?” asked Matthew Oliver, a father and the owner of House of Oliver restaurant in Roseville.
“No,” the crowd answered back in response.
California’s mandate will require students to get the shot once the vaccine gets full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
So far, Pfizer’s shot is the only one that is fully approved for people ages 16 and up. The Pfizer vaccine is operating under the emergency-use authorization for anyone 5 to 15 years old.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines have also been given emergency-use authorization.
The student vaccine requirements could go into effect by July for 7th through 12th graders.
Parents can cite personal beliefs and opt out, but families at the protest feared it will only be a matter of time before legislators pass a law to get rid of that option, like with other required school immunizations.
KCRA 3 News reached out to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office for comment. A spokesperson referred us back to the press release last month that announced the mandate, which explained it is all in an effort to keep children safe and to keep schools open.
A few school districts have taken a stand against the requirement, stating that they will not enforce it.
However, the Department of Education said there will be consequences for that, explaining that schools could lose out on funding when annual audits are performed.