Oregon candidates for governor on COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee has unanimously voted to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of recommended immunizations for children. The CDC will make the next and final decision whether to add it to the next vaccination schedule.

Oregon has about eight mandatory vaccines that kids in daycare through 12th grade need in order to go to school.

There’s “Varicella” to fight against chickenpox, “MMR” for Measles, Mumps and Rubella, Hepatitis A & B, DTap, Polio, Tdap and what’s called the “Hib vaccine” for the very youngest kids.

So who makes the call on what makes it onto this list? States do.

In Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority decides what shots are required. The decision is made by a committee of people from OHA, human services, Department of Education, school administrators, local health department and county leaders.

KGW asked each candidate for Oregon governor where they stand on a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students.

Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson said she is fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID, alongside her family, but feels differently about mandating it for students as she chose to get the shot.

“Schools and vaccines is something I think parents and local standards ought to play a very big role,” Johnson said. “And to answer your question, no, I would not make a COVID vaccine mandatory.”

Democrat candidate Tina Kotek said she believes we need to look at the research that shows if it’s safe to add the COVID-19 vaccine into the mandatory vaccination list for students.

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“I have been supportive of all the other vaccination requirements that we’ve had in our schools and I think we have to make sure parents are comfortable with adding that to the requirement list,” Kotek said. “So, I think we’re a little ways from that.”

According to an OPB article, in 2019 Kotek voted for legislation that would have removed exemptions for philosophical and religious reasons. The bill received pushback from vaccine opponents who said it infringed on parental rights. In the end, Democrats agreed to kill it to help end a walkout by senate Republicans.

In March, Kotek told Willamette Week she would support requiring COVID-19 vaccines for school attendance after the vaccine got full FDA approval.

Republican candidate Christine Drazan said she is completely against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students.

“Absolutely no,” Drazan said. “We need to remember where we’re at right now with the course on the other side of this pandemic. We know that kids have already been harmed by those excessive shut downs and the last thing we need to do is give families a reason not to have their kids in school right now.”

While students aren’t mandated to get the COVID-19 vaccine — teachers and other staff that work in schools must be fully vaccinated, according to now a permanent requirement from the OHA.

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