College Coronavirus Vaccine Requirement A Terrible Idea, Opponents Say

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Members of a legislative committee got an earful this week from opponents of a bill that would force community college students in Massachusetts to get vaccinated for coronavirus.

The bill, originally filed in May, may be moot, because state community colleges announced September 21 that they plan to require students to get vaccinated starting in January 2022. Four-year state colleges in Massachusetts are already requiring coronavirus vaccinations for in-person attendance on campus unless people qualify for a religious exemption or medical exemption.

But opponents of the mandates say trying to require vaccines is a bad idea.

The Joint Committee on Higher Education of the Massachusetts Legislature hearing Thursday, October 7 drew no supporters of the bill, but got passionate opposition.

Some focused on vaccine-intolerant physical conditions.

“We should not be forced to vaccinate,” said Kim Richards, 49, who said she has a physical condition that prevents her from getting vaccinated but nevertheless has suffered “significant discrimination.”

“Please do not mandate these vaccines. It is not wise, it’s not just, and it will not eradicate Covid 19,” Richards said.

Allison Chapman said she isn’t anti-vaccine, but that her three children, her mother, and other members of her family have physical conditions that lead to serious adverse reactions from vaccines – and yet don’t automatically qualify for a medical exemption from the coronavirus vaccines.

She said her 24-year-old nephew who worked for Dartmouth sought a religious exemption but was rejected, and now, after being coerced into getting the vaccine, is on heart medication after a bad reaction.

“I get it that it’s scary when people say their injury stories that you think people are going to be afraid of having the vaccination. But people who do have injuries, it’s a very lonely, isolating place to be. There is no consortium of doctors that are sitting down and figuring out how to treat these kids,” Chapman said. “My nephew was mocked.”

Aside from special cases, though, some opponents said it makes no sense to force otherwise-healthy young people to get a vaccine that may be riskier than the disease it’s trying to prevent.

Sargent Goodchild likened the current coronavirus vaccines to Thalidomide, a drug developed during the 1950s once used to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women that led to birth defects and deaths of children.

“Right now, we are in a very similar position with regards to Covid vaccines. And in my opinion, we are, because of the overwhelming amount of propaganda that we are exposed to on a daily basis that suggest that these vaccines are nothing but safe and effective, and because of an enormous amount of censorship that is unfolding on social media platforms — but even within mainstream media — regarding the negative effects that have been documented as a result of these vaccines, we are again missing very important safety signals,” Goodchild said. “We need to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine is not a direction that our country should be heading in.”

Instead of requiring coronavirus vaccines, he said, colleges should be making at-home testing widely available to college students.

Mary Ellen Merendino said her daughter was denied a religious exemption at Assumption University in Worcester.

Some have expressed moral objections to the vaccines because of the way they were produced and tested. The Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines were tested against cell lines based on the cells of a fetus aborted in 1973. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was produced using cell lines based on the cells of a fetus aborted in 1985.

In addition to moral problems, Merendino questioned the methodology of the vaccines and the advisability of forcing young and mostly healthy students to take them.

“College students are at a very low risk for bad outcomes,” Merendino said.

She noted that pharmaceutical companies have invested a lot of money to get people to take the vaccines, and she questioned whether balanced information about the vaccines is widespread.

“You have a moral and ethical responsibility. Passing this bill would be forcing vaccination without informed consent or choice, which is coercion and unethical. This vaccine is a crime against humanity,” Merendino said.

Supporters of the coronavirus vaccines, which include most public health officials, say they are effective at lessening the effects of coronavirus for the vast majority of people who take them.

State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), co-chairman of the committee, at one point expressed frustration with the testimony she was witnessing.

“As you know, I was at a funeral for a person who had not been vaccinated, unfortunately, and now has left his wife and five children,” Gobi said. “So, very interesting testimony that I just heard. Totally don’t agree with a single bit of it. But besides that, it will be interesting, I imagine, the rest of this hearing.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s web site states:  “COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting sick from COVID-19.  All COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have been shown to be very effective. Experts continue to conduct more studies about whether the vaccines also keep people from spreading COVID-19.”

The measure is Massachusetts Senate Bill 2499, “An Act Requiring Immunizations For In-Person Classes At Certain Massachusetts Public Institutions of Higher Learning.” It is sponsored by state Senator Edward J. Kennedy (D-Lowell).

The bill states that “community colleges … shall require COVID-19 vaccine immunization for all students and employees on every campus enrolled in on-campus learning.”


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