Press Perspective*: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of vaccinations

October 29, 2021

This was supposed to be the first year “back to normal,” but normal looks a bit different nowadays. In the Issaquah School District, there’s a new staff vaccination requirement that has generated discontentment from staff, students, and parents alike. It’s agreed that all students should be able to go to school feeling safe, but in a Covid-19 era of uncertainty, is this even possible if everyone is not vaccinated?

*Press Perspective is an editorial written to express the opinions of all editors and staff writers on the Patriot Press. Each issue, the staff comes together to discuss a topic and share their opinions, which later get compiled into the Press Perspective.

The issue

As the 2021-2022 school year rolled around, the announcement of a year in person garnered district-wide excitement, but it also posed countless new challenges. Returning to school gave rise to many new regulations, including one that has divided the Issaquah School District (ISD). 

On August 18, 2021, Governor Jay Inslee announced that all employees of both private and public K-12 schools were required to be vaccinated against Covid-19. If they could not provide proof of their full vaccination status, they would need to obtain religious or medical exemption by the October 18 cutoff. 

This announcement earned both backlash and support, but it raised the question of whether or not this mandate was reasonable. Should ISD staff be required to get vaccinated?

The greater good

In short, staff should be required to get vaccinated. A teacher’s job is to provide for their students, creating a healthy and safe environment that all students feel welcome in. if staff are not vaccinated, then they’re failing to accomplish that.

They interact the most with youth–a majority of which are too young to even receive the vaccine. Specifically, in elementary schools with the most at-risk students, teachers and staff are expected to make the institution as safe as possible for them.

Beyond that, there are the unseen and unknown risks of the immunocompromised to consider. Even if a class full of students are all healthy, there is no guarantee that the family they return home to is as well. Unvaccinated staff working puts more than just students at risk. 

Ultimately, school staff are more influential than they think. They can keep classes safer by doing their part, but they can also set an example for students to get the vaccine and keep others safe as well. It’s all a matter of putting the greater good above one’s personal feelings.

The students

It was agreed that staff should be vaccinated, but the same was said for students. While there is no mandate or rule requiring students to get vaccinated, it would be the ultimate step needed to keep everyone safe and healthy.

There are already vaccine requirements for Washington students and staff to attend public schools, including immunization for chickenpox, polio, tetanus, and more. Having a Covid-19 vaccination requirement would be similar. 

Even so, there are still many teenagers today refusing the vaccine. Some believe they’re safe from Covid-19 because they’re young, or they assume as long as some people get it, then not everyone needs to. Either way, their apathy puts others at risk because no one is completely safe. There’s always a risk even with preventative measures, but it’s wholly better to take every measure–including vaccinations–than relying on others to take precautions for you.

Of course, that’s not to say that students who don’t get the vaccine are inherently bad people. Often, teenagers can’t get it due to parent restrictions. However, attending school in person while unvaccinated is still risky, and staying home to learn remotely is the safer option.

The exemptions

Following Inslee’s order, a religious exemption was one of the most common reasons that people used to refuse the vaccine. However, most religions have not shown or stated any public opposition to the vaccine.

Religious exemptions are acceptable as long as they’ve been used for other vaccinations years before. Using this reason for only the Covid-19 vaccine isn’t rational, and if that’s the line of reasoning for ISD staff, then they should not be able to use it as an excuse. Staff can follow their religion as long as they’re not putting others at risk. 

Even if a religious exemption is a valid reason for not receiving the vaccine, staff should still be prioritizing public safety by choosing to remain isolated or remote.

The final consensus

We at the Patriot Press understand that everyone has their reasons for vaccine decisions, but the safety and health of our communities should always come first. We all hoped for a year of normalcy, but that can’t happen if precautions aren’t taken to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.

 

 

Sources:

Washington Covid-19 Vaccine Requirement – https://www.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/public/communications/2021docs/FAQ-COVID-19-Vaccine-Requirement-for-K-12-School-Employees.pdf

NPR: Religious Exemptions Article – https://www.npr.org/2021/10/04/1042577608/religious-exemptions-against-the-covid-19-vaccine-are-complicated-to-get

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