Hundreds of Massachusetts residents gathered at the state house on Sunday to protest the governor’s mandate that all students must receive the flu vaccine.
Under Republican* Gov. Charlie Baker’s mandate, all children aged 6 months or older who attend child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges and universities in the state must have a flu vaccine by Dec. 31. The edict allows for medical and religious exemptions.
“The flu vaccine requirement applies to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students younger than 30 years of age and all full- and part-time health science students,” MassLive reported.
In the Sunday demonstration in Boston, protesters held signs that read “My child, my choice,” “unavoidably unsafe,” “parents call the shots” and “I am not a threat.” They also chanted “we will not comply,” MassLive wrote.
“I have four children and I want to protect my right to their education without being coerced into receiving a flu vaccine, which I don’t believe in,” said Renee Vanderzicht, who has elementary, middle, and high school-aged children in Uxbridge Public Schools. “I’m for freedom of choice,” Vanderzicht said. “Parents should have the freedom to know what they are putting into their children’s bodies, to have the right to decide what they feel is best for their families and not have an education dangled in front of their face if they don’t comply with something they don’t agree with.”
“I think parents are vulnerable right now. They need their kids to go to school and they backed us into a corner,” fellow protester Taryn Proulx told WCVB-5. “We feel like we have to just comply or rearrange our whole lives and homeschool our children.”
Massachusetts’ mandate follows the declaration by Virginia’s Health Commissioner that he will order all Virginians to take a COVID-19 vaccine once one is available to the public.
“It is killing people now, we don’t have a treatment for it and if we develop a vaccine that can prevent it from spreading in the community we will save hundreds and hundreds of lives,” Dr. Norman Oliver told 8News on Friday.
Virginia state law gives the Commissioner of Health “the authority to mandate immediate immunizations during a public health crisis if a vaccine is available. Health officials say an immunization could be released as early as 2021,” 8News said. “Dr. Oliver says that, as long as he is still the Health Commissioner, he intends to mandate the coronavirus vaccine.”
Under state law in Virginia, people with a medical exemption are the only ones allowed to refuse the mandatory vaccine. The Virginia General Assembly is currently considering a bill during an ongoing special session that “eliminates the authority of the Commissioner of Health to require immunization of individuals who object to such administration on religious grounds.” The bill first needs to make it out of a committee in the House of Delegates, controlled by Democrats, before the full chamber will vote.
“Oliver says he strongly opposes the bill. He doesn’t know what the punishment would be for non-compliance but expects that most people will respond well to the mandate,” 8News reported.
Virginia Freedom Keepers Director of Communications Kathleen Medaries is supporting the bill, known as HB5016.
“Over 5,000 Virginians in just the last 24 hours have asked how they can support HB5016 following the Virginia State Health Commissioner’s statement to ABC 8News Friday that he plans to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for Virginians once one is made available to the public,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Current Virginia Law gives him that power, but HB5016 proposes an amendment for each Virginian to choose for themself whether to take, delay or decline the shot without penalty.”
*An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Baker as a Democrat.
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