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What parents think about a vaccine mandate for West Contra Costa school kids

on September 21, 2021

The West Contra Costa Unified School District was expected to propose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students this week, but that was postponed indefinitely because of legal concerns, according to an email that Superintendent Chris Hurst sent to staff. 

Parents are split on whether students over 12 years old should be forced to get the vaccine, which the federal government has not yet approved for younger children. 

Some parents are concerned that kids could experience unexpected side effects, though studies have not borne that out. Some worry that a mandate could infringe on a child’s right to choose. Others favor such a measure, pointing out that vaccines have long been required for children attending school. 

The issue is coming to a head as Contra Costa County tries to get a handle on the highly contagious delta variant, which is blamed for increasing cases among children. Kids under 12 have the highest rate of infection right now in the county.

In neighboring Alameda County, the Oakland Unified School District board could vote on a vaccine mandate this week. 

Richmond Confidential talked to WCCUSD parents about the issue. Here are some of their comments:

Vaccine mandate
Wagner Souza of Hercules

“I think the vaccine mandate is a good thing,” said Wagner Souza, a painter from Hercules and the parent of two kids, ages 4 and 11.

“I don’t like that they’re trying to force it. I feel like it should be our choice. I am vaccinated, but that’s because I work in health care. So actually, I was forced to.”

Denisse Saballo, a medical assistant whose 9-year-old son is at Grant Elementary School in Richmond

“I support people getting vaccinated. I’m going to believe medical research and people a lot smarter than I am. However, I’m not really for a mandate.”

Christopher Ornelas, of El Sobrante, who has two children under 12 and a 13-year-old daughter who is vaccinated.

Vaccine mandate
Robert Martinez of Hercules

“I got it, my wife got it. I would recommend any adult to get it. I think just for the kids, it’s not a good idea right now,” said Robert Martinez, of Hercules, whose children are 8 and 11.  

“When my child was an infant, I had to have her vaccinated before she could go to kindergarten. I had to go to the doctor and pay for the shot, but this isn’t like that. This is free and it’s everywhere, so it’s way more accessible than a TB shot or a measles shot.”

Leslie Light, of Pinole, whose child is in fifth grade.

“If they do [pass the mandate], I’ll probably pull her out of school.”

Jessica Kingnu, a nurse with a 12-year-old daughter in elementary school in Pinole.

“I’m very emphatically supportive of it. I don’t think we are ever going to get the pandemic under control until we get people vaccinated. The anti-vaccine rhetoric is absurd. … I’m counting the days when it will be eligible for my kids.”

Alison DeJung, of El Sobrante, who runs a nonprofit and has an 11-year-old in middle school and a 7-year-old in elementary school.

This story was updated to correct Alison DeJung’s quote.

Sakura Cannestra, Noah McMillan, Katie Rodriguez, Maddy Taub, Buddy Terry III, Ananya Tiwari, Alfredo Torres, Linus Unah, Wangyuxuan Xu and Olivia Zhao contributed to this report.


  1. bonita andrews on October 6, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    I think it is reckless to mandate a vaccine on children when we don’t have enough history of this vaccine. I hope the school district has plenty of other options for us, it appears that the mask and washing has been working pretty well at school. I am not anti vaccine, I believe this one needs more time for children.

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