Some parents are protesting the Fairfax County Public Schools COVID-19 vaccine mandate for student athletes. On Tuesday afternoon, a group of a little more than 20 parents protested outside the FCPS Gatehouse Administration Center. FCPS parent Missy Pratt began organizing the protest after Braband’s announcement. Pratt said she’s focused on the vaccine mandate, but she’s also opposed to mask mandates.
“‘No vax, no mask, we push back,’ that was our chant all day long at the rally,” Pratt told The Virginia Star
“Back off this COVID injection mandate, absolutely, is number one. But I’m not stopping there. Drop this mask mandate. Masks don’t work, everybody knows it, there’s harm in wearing a mask,” she said.”It’s a means of control, and nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions. They want to pass the buck and say, ‘We’re just implementing, we’re just doing.'”
On August 30, FCPS Superintendent Scott Braband announced the requirement, which goes into effect November 8. Braband said that would help keep schools open by minimizing the spread of COVID-19 during athletics and other activities that require a physical examination. The Virginia Department of Education classifies those as high-risk activities. Braband noted that 75.4 percent of Fairfax County 16-18 year-olds were already fully-vaccinated. That same day, neighboring Loudoun County Public Schools announced a similar mandate.
Pratt said that although some sort of medical or religious exemption will be included, school officials haven’t clearly communicated those details.
She follows some Fairfax parent advocacy groups’ work, but she’s not a leader in any of those organizations. She said, “I am not part of any group. I started this when I got that email.”
“I was very angry and I was not going to sit and do nothing. I was going to do whatever I could to make my voice heard and so I started the rally. I think we started to pull this together last Friday. Along the way there have been other parent advocacy groups that have come and supported,” Pratt said.
Pratt is a former staffer from Sergio de la Peña’s campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Groups including the NOVA Parents Alliance, the Open FCPS Coalition, and the Army of Parents helped spread the word; for now, Pratt said interested parents should follow those organizations.
The student athlete vaccine announcement came during a Virginia-wide summer spike of new COVID-19 cases hit levels matching early February according to Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data. More recent VDH numbers may not be completely up-to-date, but a seven-day average trend shows cases decreasing again, with a peak on August 28 at 3,071 average cases.
Hospitalizations are still trending upward, hitting a seven-day moving average of 1,933 on September 7, matching mid-February levels, according to Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association data. The VDH also reports that between January 17 and August 28, unvaccinated people developed COVID-19 at a rate 9.2 times that of fully vaccinated people; 0.4 percent of fully vaccinated Virginians have developed COVID-19, with 154 COVID-19 deaths among the 4.8 million fully-vaccinated Virginians.
Virginia schools already require a number of vaccinations, and the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has received full authorization from the FDA.
Pratt said comparing the new vaccines to other vaccines isn’t accurate, and expressed concerns about the increased risk of myocarditis in young adults who receive the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC reports that those cases are rare, and most patients recovered quickly.
Pratt doesn’t trust the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine, and she said that FCPS’ other policies in response to COVID-19 have not inspired confidence that school officials are making the best choices for children.
She said, “If this is for the safety of our children, they’re not offering credible enough support. And the burden of proof is on them. It’s not on the parent. They’re not offering credible enough support, I know that there’s no guarantees, but to make sure that what they are rolling out is actually safe and beneficial for our children.”
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