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Portland Public Schools parents speak out against potential COVID-19 shot requirement for students.

SCREENSHOT - Portland Public Schools Board member Andrew Scott listens to parent feedback about a potential vaccine mandate for students during one of three virtual listening sessions held Tuesday, Oct. 19.Portland school board members were met with an onslaught of opposition Tuesday, Oct. 19, during one of three virtual listening sessions for a proposed vaccine mandate for students 12 and older.

Nearly every parent who logged on for a virtual westside session, geared toward parents of students at Roosevelt, Lincoln and Ida B. Wells High Schools, lamented the "unknown long-term effects" of the COVID-19 vaccines and spoke against the proposed mandate.

One parent called the idea of a vaccine requirement, "a form of discrimination," noting many families are personally opposed to vaccines.

SCREENSHOT - Heather Bowden, a PPS parent, gives feedback to school board members and school district staff during a virtual listening session Oct. 19.Other parents pointed to data they saw in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System and the power of "natural immunity" to help fight off COVID-19 infection. Most reports logged in VAERS are symptoms commonly reported as immediate side effects from the injection, such as headache, fever, swelling at the injection site, nausea and muscle or joint pain.

Heather Bowden warned board members Andrew Scott and Herman Greene that her 12-year-old son "will not be going to school" if PPS implements a vaccine mandate.

Other parents registered similar unease.

"We simply don't have long-term data on vaccine side effects," Melissa Morhardt said.

The listening sessions revealed a general unease among parents, as the district considers whether a vaccine requirement would help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools and the broader community. The school district's decision comes as the White House gears up to start allowing vaccination of children as young as 5 in the coming weeks. The PPS board is slated to discuss the merits of a proposed mandate at its next meeting Oct. 26.

"We truly are weighing all the options, not just the ones we like," PPS board member Greene reassured parents.

SCREENSHOT - Herman Greene, a Portland Public Schools board member, was one of two school board members who attended a virtual listening session to hear from parents of Ida B. Wells, Roosevelt and Lincoln high schools about how a proposed student vaccine mandate would impact them.One by one, PPS staff and board members listened to comments from parents who warned that a student vaccine mandate would lead to many children being excluded from school. Many parents said they got vaccinated, but feel it's too soon to get their children vaccinated.

Others cited concerns over myocarditis, a rare heart condition reported in some young boys after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

During a previous information session hosted by the school district in late September, school board members heard from a panel of physicians who talked about childhood immunizations. Dr. Joelle Simpson, a physician and division chief of emergency medicine with Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., said serious adverse reactions to the vaccine in children are rare.

"What we've known so far across both pediatric and adult populations is that the number one sort of side effects have been syncope ... meaning fainting spells," Dr. Simpson said. When asked about myocarditis, Simpson called it "a very uncommon event, and when it does occur, is a very brief event, as far as we can tell, and has no long-term complications."

Rebecca Cohen's was a rare voice in favor of adding a COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations for school children.

Cohen said it should be required, "just like all the other vaccines required for students to attend public school," noting, "if we continue to let COVID spread, it will continue to mutate, and it could very well mutate into something that is even more virulent than delta."

Others pointed to countries like Sweden, Denmark and Germany, where children 12 to 15 were initially only advised to get the vaccine if they had underlying conditions, but as reported by the BBC, Germany changed its stance in August, with the spread of the delta variant. Germany now advises that all children 12 and older are safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Additional listening sessions are scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, for Spanish speaking families, and again that afternoon at 4:30 for students.


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