CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati Public Schools poll of parents, teachers and partners found split opinions on whether vaccines should be mandatory for district employees. Forty-three percent of respondents wanted staff to be able to choose whether they’re vaccinated or not, 40% wanted mandatory vaccinations, and 16% were undecided.
A board of education meeting on June 28 will be the first opportunity board members have to discuss the findings and potentially hold a vote establishing the district's policy.
For CPS parent Claire Liron Patterson, having two school-age sons do school remotely during the coronavirus pandemic pushed their family with two working parents to the brink.
“For my kids’ mental health, for my own mental health, it was very difficult,” she said.
When she received CPS’ text asking if she supports mandatory vaccinations for staff, she found herself on the fence.
“I don’t know if them being forced is the right way to go,” Patterson said.
Some board members argue it might be more than just a good idea.
“When you look at the delta variant and what’s going on, I think there are some legitimate concerns about the spread of the virus again,” CPS board member Mike Moroski said.
As the chair of the board of education’s public policy committee, Moroski said he recognizes the issue is hardly theirs alone. COVID-19 vaccines have emergency authorization, but not FDA approval. Until then, legal experts have found that companies forcing employees to take shots risk losing lawsuits for negligence.
Some Southwest Ohio hospitals are discussing vaccine mandates. UC Health and others already require employees to be vaccinated against tuberculosis, hepatitis and the flu.
“If you come into a health care facility, there’s a reasonable expectation that you’re going to be safe,” Mercy Health chief clinical officer Dr. Stephen Feagins said. “If there’s a vaccine that is available, safe, good, that everyone can participate in, that becomes the expectation.”
Moroski said the district’s goal is simple — having students in class.
“We don’t want to close schools,” he said. “We want our schools to be open five days a week all year next year."
The vaccine mandates are on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the Cincinnati Public Schools board. A vote will be held if there is a consensus.
“I’m torn about it, because I can understand that some people can have a health condition or a personal reason not to get the vaccine,” Patterson said. “But for me, as a parent, I really need my kids to go to school.”