Protest held against East Bay school district's vaccine mandate

A group of parents, along with their children and grandchildren, demonstrated in front of the West Contra Costa Unified School District headquarters in Richmond on Monday. 

They are upset about a vaccine mandate that is taking effect. 

Under the new policy, students 12-years-old and up in the district must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by January 3rd, if they wish to continue in-person learning. 

Some parents are uncomfortable with the vaccine, despite the advice of health officials. 

"There are breakthrough cases. And there are no long-term studies for any adverse effects, some delayed effects they haven't seen yet," Mark Shalz, the father of a high school student.

"I feel at this point the vaccine is experimental and we just don't know enough about it. As a parent and grandparents we should be given the choice to abstain from the mandate," said Carol Jorgensen, the grandmother of a high school student.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and all reputable medical associations have been saying the vaccine is safe, effective and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID.

"The kids who are not vaccinated can also spread the virus to others. The schools need to be a safe environment for everybody," says UC Berkeley Infectious disease specialist Dr. John Swartzberg.

Swartzberg also says the vaccine is safe long-term because complications  from any vaccine usually occur within the first six to eight weeks. 

Still, some parents remain skeptical. 

"My son has his future ahead of him. Why would I want him to take that risk that is unknown?" says Shalz.

The school district superintendent says the vaccine mandate is the best way to make students, teachers and staff safe. 

"We believe any parent has the right to share their voice and protest. But also, our board and I we have to look at students overall and the safety of all students," said Superintendent Chris Hurst.

Under the plan, students who are not vaccinated can enter the district's distance learning program. 

"The remote learning is not really an option. That did not work out," said Jorgensen.

At least three other East Bay school districts; Oakland, Hayward, and Piedmont, have all approved vaccine mandates.