OAKLAND, Calif. - More than a thousand people crowded the front steps of the California Capitol on Monday to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to require all children to get the coronavirus vaccine to attend public and private schools.
Many parents at the rally in Sacramento pulled their children out of school to attend the protest, hoping the absences send a message to state officials.
Parents carried signs that read, "My children won’t be a science experiment to make you feel safe," and "My body, my choice."
Aerial views showed dozens of teens leaving class and peacefully marching in the downtown area.
No large Bay Area protest was held, despite calls from anti-vaccine groups to hold a statewide sit-out.
Plans for the walkout began taking shape after California became the first state to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for eligible children for in-person learning.
"I think that like anything for these vaccines, they need more information, more data, more research, and then once we see that, and we feel comfortable, then maybe it will be something we decide to do," said Omar Adham, a parent in Walnut Creek who is homeschooling his children.
He is apprehensive about the vaccine and supportive of parents taking part in the sit-out.
All the vaccines have been thoroughly reviewed and approved for adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and millions of people have been inoculated, overwhelmingly without problems, throughout the globe.
Other parents also remained skeptical.
One parent posted to the Facebook group called "Parents of Freedom" this week, a post that read her daughter wouldn't be going to school. Other posts said they didn't want to "co-parent with the government."
Fliers on the page urged parents to "show the governor and your local school board you oppose the mandate by leaving your seat empty."
Gov. Gavin Newsom says the mandate won’t take effect until the U.S. government has finished fully vetting the vaccine for two age groups — 12 to 15 and 5 to 11. That means those in 7th to 12th grades probably will have until July to get their shots.
Other parents want their children to get vaccinated.
"I, as a parent, feel really comfortable with their regulatory process and when it’s fully approved, they have looked it up and down, all the safety data," Dr. Monica Ghandi, an infectious disease expert at UCSF.
Meanwhile, in Walnut Creek, parent Audrey Sensney, who has a daughter who is immunocompromised, said she is personally for the vaccine mandate.
But she added: "I think to each their own. I mean, every parent needs to make the decision for their child."
The State Superintendent's office released a statement regarding the school sit out Monday afternoon. It read in part: "We continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds. State Superintendent Thurmond and the California Department of Education support the vaccine mandate because it will keep our students and educators safe and our schools open."
The office said as the mandate goes into effect in July 2022, they will work with school district leaders as well as health and education officials on the rollout of the vaccine mandate.