Pritzker says K-12 student vaccine mandate not on table | Illinois

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(The Center Square) – The public school board in Illinois’ capital city is sending a non-binding resolution to the Illinois State Board of Education in support of making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for eligible children. But, it may be for naught.

Monday’s vote by the Springfield District 186 school board is the first such resolution from a local school board in Illinois.

The resolution urges ISBE to make the COVID-19 vaccine required for eligible students.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine available in the United States has federal use authorization for everyone 12 and older. It has not been approved for younger children. Neither the Moderna nor Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for anyone younger than 18.

Before Monday’s vote, student Vinny Le addressed the Springfield school board in support of the resolution.

“My junior year in remote learning was the worst year in my life and by the end of it I was clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety because of the stress that I went through because of online learning,” Le said. “Please do not let COVID bring back remote learning. We need to require the vaccine.”

That sentiment concerned one resident, Sandy Stevens, who opposed the mandates, equating it to bullying.

“Big bully gangs like [President Joe] Biden, [Gov. J.B.] Pritzker, ISBE and the teachers’ union are all and part of your big bully gang and they have power and money,” Stevens said. “Obviously you know that. You just got $100 million. For what.”

While COVID-relief aid does have strings attached, supporters of the resolution said there’s no money tied to it.

Springfield school board member Micah Miller said it’s important the district take a position on requiring the COVID shot, saying they’re a good way to keep kids in school. But, he said not enough people are willing to get the vaccine.

“So it’s abundantly clear that without some kind of direction from the highest level in this state, we are destined to be sitting here, next year, having these conversations all over again,” Miller said.

Board member Bill Ringer said instead of passing non-binding resolutions, board members should take their personal opinions directly to health officials.

“We need to focus more on educating our students and stay the course with our mission,” Ringer said. “The issue has created more controversy within our school and community. It’s controversy we can do without.”

The resolution passed with two members opposed.

Separately, Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked Monday if he’ll follow California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lead in mandating the vaccine for school children in Illinois.

“That’s not something that we’re looking at doing,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker’s office didn’t respond when asked why the governor is not looking at mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for school children.

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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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