On Wednesday, the state Board of Health voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of a technical advisory group to hold off on adding a COVID-19 vaccine to the list of immunizations required for students to attend school.
This was the right call.
Kids are rightly required to have a slate of vaccinations to attend public school, from measles and hepatitis B to whooping cough. Those are good mandates, important for protecting public health in a crowded school setting against diseases that have ravaged our populations since time immemorial.
COVID-19 is new. The vaccines are new. I trust the process by which they were developed, tested and approved (my entire family has received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for COVID-19) but for many reasons, a lot of other folks aren’t ready to go there.
The state Board of Health was wise to recognize that fact and to say no to a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all school children. The fallout from such a mandate would have been far more severe than the benefit achieved.
“We have to be sensitive to the fact that this is a very contentious issue,” said board member Bob Lutz, former health officer of Spokane County’s public health department. “… We will continue to advocate for vaccines because they’re effective, but we also have to look at the social implications.”
My kids have all been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, as have my wife and I. We were glad to have the opportunity to better protect ourselves against a mercurial disease — reducing the risk that we would face serious injury and reducing the likelihood that we might pass the disease on to others. In our case, several months after vaccinations, we had one child test positive for COVID-19 with mild symptoms and full recovery. The rest of us have not yet tested positive nor had noticeable symptoms. The vaccinations did what they were supposed to by reducing risk and spread. We’re grateful for our COVID-19 shots!
Still, we recognize that other people have chosen not to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or have not vaccinated their children.
Our schools are already battlegrounds on so many issues. It’s hard for students and teachers, it damages the valuable role that public schools play in our communities, and it creates more division in society.
It seems that we are finally emerging from two tough years of COVID-19 impacts — deaths, restrictions and disputes. Of course, we don’t know what’s ahead. Viruses mutate and it’s possible this one still has a trick or two up its sleeve. At this point, though, our most recent Lewis County Public Health report marked the first week in months that there has not been a single COVID-19 death. Since the start of the pandemic, the disease has killed 239 Lewis County folks.
Thankfully, we now have vaccines that significantly reduce the danger of dying from COVID-19 from those who take advantage of the opportunity to be immunized. The protection is there if people want it.
For those who don’t, we now have an ample supply and widespread availability of N-95 masks that can protect the wearer.
And especially after the omicron surge that tore across the globe and through our communities in December and January, many of us have been exposed to COVID-19 already, giving our bodies familiarity with a disease and allowing our immune systems to recognize and respond next time we’re exposed.
COVID-19 is not the crisis it was a year or two ago.
Vaccines for COVID-19 are a medical marvel and a real blessing. Vaccine mandates, unfortunately, turned them into a point of contention.
I’m glad our state Board of Health didn’t extend that particular fight further into our already embattled public schools.
Dad Joke of the Week
Kudos to the Chehalis United Methodist Church for providing the bulk of this week’s joke.
Their readerboard this week says, “The CDC says you can have all the Easter candy you want.”
To which I would add this punchline: “As long as you can eat it through your mask.”
Happy Resurrection Sunday, folks.
Brian Mittge can be reached at email@example.com.