Thousands of parents in California will protest Monday against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public school students, saying they don’t want to “co-parent” with the government.
About 3,000 parents and critics of Newsom’s mandate are expected to attend Monday’s 10 a.m. “Our Children, Our Choice!” protest outside the state Capitol in Sacramento, where they were urged to keep their kids from school in defiance of the governor’s requirement for all eligible public school students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend in-person classes.
“Please come in numbers, be loud,” a Facebook invite reads. “Let’s stand up for our innocent children and let them [state officials] know they do not co-parent with us!”
Two Sacramento mothers who helped organize the protest told KGET they’re not opposed to vaccines, but don’t want government interference while making health decisions for their children.
“We are not an anti-vaccine group at all,” Tess Van Dusen told the station. “We are 100 percent supportive of parents that want to make their choice for their child.”
Organizer Amber Faddis said she’s protesting Newsom’s order to “make a stand” against the requirement set to take effect as early as January for students 12 and older.
Kids in kindergarten through sixth grade would be phased in afterward after shots for that group have been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“It’s just making a point that we are serious about this, about pulling our kids out of school on the 18th,” Faddis told the station.
Other associated rallies against Newsom’s mandate — the first statewide order of its kind in the nation — are also expected to be held Monday outside the office of Kern County Schools Superintendent Mary Barlow in Bakersfield, KGET reported.
“Our tax dollars pay for these public schools,” Faddis told the station. “We have every right to attend these schools and to have the liberties of vaccine kids or no vaccine kids.”
Barlow, meanwhile, said students who attend Monday’s protest would bear the brunt of any time out of the classroom.
“We respect the right for people to peacefully advocate for their beliefs,” Barlow told KGET in a statement. “However, protesting by keeping students out of school will only lead to lost learning time.”
Michelle Page, a mother of two, told KTXL she’s strongly opposed to Newsom’s mandate that would impact her 10-year-old and 11-year-old children after the vaccine is fully federally approved for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Once Newsom’s order goes into effect, unvaccinated students won’t be allowed to attend in-person classes but can enroll in online school, attend independent study programs or be homeschooled.
“The forcing of the vaccine is not OK with any of us,” Page said. “We’re pulling our kids from public school and it is absolutely something we don’t want to do. We don’t want to do this.”
But Paige insisted the issue comes down to personal choice regarding medical care.
“This is unlike all of the other vaccines,” she continued. “We make the decision of what goes into our kids’ bodies. Plain and simple.”
But some other parents, including a woman who lost her husband to COVID-19 while waiting to get vaccinated, said they believed Newsom’s mandate was sound.
“I believe in the science and the research,” Kathleen Lancaster told KTXL. “My kids can’t go to school without vaccines. You can’t join the military without getting poked about 20 times, so I’m not so sure why this one?”
Organizers told the station they expect up to 3,000 people in attendance. A spokesperson for Newsom’s office said the mandate was solely about protecting children and staff in classrooms.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against a range of viruses such as measles, mumps, and rubella — there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19,” a Newsom spokesperson told KXTV. “Vaccines work and are how we end the pandemic — full stop. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates in the nation.”
An FDA advisory committee, meanwhile, is scheduled to discuss the authorization of a vaccine for children ages 5-11 on Oct. 26 after Pfizer and BioNTech requested emergency use authorization for their inoculation.