County officials say they won’t force coronavirus vaccinations on children or turn schools into mass vaccination centers, following text messages and social media posts in the community claiming otherwise.
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The rumors pushed a wave of residents to speak against the alleged mandatory vaccinations at the Orange County Board Education’s Wednesday meeting.
The social media posts and text messages also sent county and school officials scrambling to dispel them.
“Last night there was some misinformation — or accusations, actually — that I’m attempting to trying to prevent … parents from signing consent for a minor. That is far from the truth,” said Orange County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau during an impromptu Thursday morning media briefing.
He also said nobody can mandate the vaccines.
Commenters during the eight-hour board of education meeting compared vaccinations to medical experiments committed during the Holocaust, and repeatedly said students would be vaccinated without their parents knowledge or consent during the school day.
“The rumor claims that I want to remove parental knowledge or consent for minors to be vaccinated for Covid-19, which is actually not true. And then that I want schools to become vaccination centers. [But I’ve only been] in conversations to create [vaccination sites] that are convenient for parents who want their children to be vaccinated,” Chau said.
County officials said the rumor stemmed from a comment on an Orange County Department of Education Facebook post.
Mandatory vaccination rumors also pushed the department to release a statement Thursday.
“COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandated for any residents of the state of California. Any such proposal would be in violation of the emergency use authorizations for current COVID-19 vaccines,” reads the OC Department of Education statement.
Like Chau, the department said vaccinations won’t be required for students to return to schools.
“Moreover, the State of California, the County of Orange and local school districts are not requiring students or staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of resuming in-person instruction, which is already offered at the vast majority of Orange County schools,” reads the statement.
State officials are pushing to reopen all classrooms by June 15, when nearly all coronavirus restrictions are expected to be lifted if hospitalizations remain low and enough people are vaccinated.
“I want kids back in person. I want kids back in school safely,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a Tuesday news conference. On June 15 we anticipate there will be no barrier in getting all kids back.”
Locally, school districts are moving to reopen more classrooms.
Tustin Unified School District will allow 6-12th graders to come back four days a week beginning April 19. On April 29, elementary students will be offered full day instruction four days a week.
The Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District will also be offering increased classroom instruction for all grades and continue to distance learning as well on April 19.
Capistrano Unified School District will do the same for students beginning April 26 and students in distance learning will remain virtual.
Centralia Elementary School started a five day school week Monday for some first graders and will expand to more grades while students in distance learning remain in a virtual classroom for the rest of the year.
Anaheim Union High School District plans to offer a five-day classroom instruction starting August, along with a full distance learning model.
Garden Grove Unified School District will return to five day in-person instruction in the fall.
Meanwhile, Orange County’s hospitalizations have plateaued this week.
As of Thursday, 113 people were hospitalized, including 28 in intensive care units, according to the county Health Care Agency.
That’s the lowest hospitalizations have been in a year.
The virus has now killed 4,810 people — nearly nine times more than the flu does on a yearly average.
COVID deaths have now surpassed average yearly cancer deaths in OC.
It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively.
Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.
Last year, more than 24,400 OC residents died, according to the latest state health data.
According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Infections | Hospitalizations & Deaths | City-by-City Data
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio
Reporters Nick Gerda and Hosam Ellatar contributed to this story.