“Let me be clear,” Congresswoman Elise Stefanik declared Monday afternoon on her Twitter megaphone. “No vaccine mandates for teachers No vaccine mandates for students. No mandates for anyone. And unmask our kids!”
Children entering school in New York are required to have had seven vaccines, and middle and high school students must have a couple more. You can get an exemption if you have a medical condition that qualifies. No other sort of exemption, not for religious, cultural or “it’s a free country” reasons is granted.
We assume Stefanik is referring to the COVID-19 vaccines, although she doesn’t say that. But what makes the COVID-19 vaccine any different from the hepatitis B vaccine or the chickenpox vaccine?
Hepatitis B and chickenpox did not kill more than half a million people over the course of the past year, and that is because most of us were vaccinated for those viruses when we were kids.
COVID-19, as well as sickening millions of Americans and killing hundreds of thousands, has spread an infection of magical thinking about vaccines, even, apparently, to our prep school and Harvard-educated congresswoman.
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“No mandates for anyone,” she proclaims.
No mandates at all?
Again, we assume she is using shorthand that sounds good on social media.
But even if she is referring to COVID vaccines only, that is bad enough.
No one likes getting shots, just as no one likes wearing masks. Both are done to prevent something much worse.
The data shows children are very unlikely to develop life-threatening symptoms from COVID-19. But they can get sick, and we don’t know yet what the long-term effects could be. Vaccination is about more than any one individual or any one demographic. It aims at making infection more difficult generally, to curb the spread of the virus as well as the severity of symptoms.
Getting shots, for those who qualify (no shots are available yet for children under 12), and taking simple steps at prevention like wearing masks, is sensible. We should be doing everything possible to ensure our kids can go back to school in the fall and can stay there the whole year.
The worst case scenario would be for students to return to school in September, then have to switch back to remote learning because of a resurgence of the virus. That is the scenario Stefanik makes more likely with her anti-vaccine, anti-masking (or should we call it pro-COVID?) grandstanding.
We don’t know why, as a federal representative, Stefanik is expending her energy on public school policy, which is the purview of the states.
Like everyone else, we are weary of dealing with COVID-19. Being weary or angry or rebellious doesn’t make the virus go away, however, while vaccinations and mask-wearing do.
Local editorials are written by the Post-Star editorial board, which includes Ben Rogers, president and director of local sales and marketing; Brian Corcoran, regional finance director and former publisher; Will Doolittle, projects editor; and Bob Condon, local news editor.