PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Public Schools Board is considering requiring all students 12-and-over to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But before they vote in early November, they’re hearing from parents. A lot of parents.
There were 3 different groups for listening sessions Tuesday night. Each session was broken up by various high schools so more people would get the chance to talk. In the group that included Grant, McDaniel and Jefferson high schools, School Board Director Michelle DePass said that “vaccine, masking and COVID response are difficult topics.”
Parents Catherine Potter and Chris Hansen spoke in favor the mandate.
“I’m here to show my support for 12-and-older,” Potter said, noting there is good evidence “the more we have vaccinated the better for all of us.”
Hansen said immunization mandates are nothing new for public schools. “This vaccine has been vetted so we fully support having the vaccine mandate.”
Parents in support pointed to less illness, fewer quarantines and more consistency for in person learning.
About two dozen other parents spoke against the vaccine mandate for 12-and-older. They pointed to concerns about myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), possible unknown longterm health effects, the vaccine’s emergency use authorization status (although the Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval) and their kids being bullied or ostracized because of it.
“I strongly believe the decision to vaccinate is a personal one,” said Erin Snyder, a parent at Jefferson High, adding it is “a polarizing and divisive topic.”
More than a dozen parents said they would pull their kids from the school district if the PPS Board approves the 12-and-older mandate.
“We’re better off encouraging people to get the vaccine if they feel it’s appropriate for them rather than mandating it,” parent Eric Lambert said.
Following the discussion, PPS leaders said they have a lot to consider.
“I have not made up my mind” on the mandate, DePass said. “I feel like I need to have more study about the impacts, unintended and intended.”
There are two more virtual listening sessions scheduled for Thursday. One is mainly for Spanish speakers and the other is for students only.
After those remaining listening sessions, the PPS Board will meet to discuss their findings on October 26. They are set to vote on the proposed mandate on November 2.
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.