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Boston.com readers want schools to require the COVID-19 vaccine this fall

"I can’t believe this is even a question at this point."

A health care worker administers a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to Duncan Beauchamp, 17, at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Conn., on Thursday, July 22, 2021. The U.S. vaccine rollout has plateaued and the course of the coronavirus pandemic in this country may depend on how many people are ultimately swayed to get vaccinated. (Christopher Capozziello/The New York Times)

Many students will soon begin a new year of in-person learning, and the question of whether or not schools should enforce a vaccine mandate for those eligible looms as Massachusetts experiences an uptick in new COVID-19 cases.

Some colleges and universities will require its students to be fully vaccinated for a return to in-person classes. Boston University has extended the requirement to its faculty and staff.

The vaccine was authorized for children ages 12 and older in May — many Boston.com readers said they would vaccinate their eligible children. Given low vaccination rates for Boston students, and those under 12 who remain ineligible, Boston Public Schools plans to require masks for all students and staff this fall.

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However, Governor Charlie Baker said he has no plans to change the state’s current COVID-19 policies, leaving local officials and schools to provide guidance for its residents and community members.

We asked Boston.com readers whether or not you think a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools is fair, and of the 635 responses, the majority (62 percent) said yes, the vaccine should be required, while 36 percent said no, a vaccine mandate goes too far. 

Gov. Baker noted last week that Massachusetts has the second highest vaccination rate in the country.

Many of the responses we received carried a sense of urgency as readers prepare to send their kids back to school, while others were in disbelief that students, faculty, and staff will not be given a choice.

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Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Do you think COVID-19 vaccine requirements at schools are fair?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine should be required for students, faculty, and staff.

“There is no difference between the COVID vaccine and a measles vaccine. Get the vaccine or homeschool your kid so that my kid isn’t exposed due to your careless, thoughtless, disregard for other human beings,” Anne wrote.

“My kids can’t get vaccinated so I depend on the people that can to do what they can to keep my kids safe,” Chagit Steiner, whose kids attend Zervas Elementary in Newton, wrote. “When the vaccine is authorized for them they will also do their part to get vaccinated and protect themselves and the others around them.”

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“All students and teachers should be vaccinated. Last year my kids finally got back to in-person school in March. But within two weeks there was an outbreak and they got sent home again. It’s hard enough working, paying alimony/child-support, but to then also have to teach my own kids is too much,” Steve from Providence wrote. 

“Students who come into our city have a responsibility to be vaccinated in order to protect Bostonians. They are all over the city spreading whatever viruses they carry,” one reader wrote.

“I approve of vaccine mandates because it is not just personal, it’s a community responsibility,” John from Boston University wrote.

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“Back in the early 1980’s there was a measles outbreak at Boston University and we were told to get the booster shot (and proof) of it before we got back on campus. We just did it. There was no “freedumb” pushback or any of the current nonsense. Maybe back then we cared about keeping ourselves and others safe, and the collective good compared to nowadays,” wrote one reader who graduated from Boston University in 1985.

No, the mandate goes too far.

“No. Students should not be forced to take a vaccine in order to return to school. Instead safety protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing should be put in place with disciplinary consequences if the student decides not to,” one reader wrote.

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Another reader wrote that people shouldn’t be forced to get a vaccine that only has emergency use authorization. “People should have the choice to wait until full approval is granted.” 

“This is America. Or it used to be. You don’t have the right to boss other people around! You have the responsibility to protect yourself. If you don’t like this, there are plenty of socialist countries you can move to,” J from Andover wrote. 

“Kids are at almost zero risk. This is child abuse,” another reader wrote.

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“Freedom of choice is our unalienable right in this country,” wrote Mary from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.

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