A crowd of teachers, parents and schoolchildren from Staten Island protested against potential mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, despite there being no current plan to introduce one.
Around 50 people gathered outside The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) holding placards saying ‘say no to tyranny’, ‘mandates violate human rights’ and chanting ‘my body, my choice’, a slogan from the anti-abortion movement.
There is currently no mandate to force students and teachers in Staten Island to take the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines being rolled out across the US.
Members of the group said they are not ‘anti-vax’ but that as Americans they ‘have the right to choose’.
They claim the protest was a warning shot to UFT president Michael Mulgrew to fight mandatory vaccination, if it emerges in the future.
The protest follows a bill introduced in New York by Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, who represents parts of Manhattan’s West Side, on December 4, to start mandatory vaccinations if enough ‘science deniers’ refuse the shot and keep the population from so-called ‘herd immunity’.
A COVID-19 vaccine for children is still months away, with Pfizer testing in children 12 and older.
Parents and officials rally outside of the United Federation of Teachers headquarters in Eltingville, Staten Island, on Saturday, concerned about potential mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for teachers and students- something that has not yet materialized. Pictured, Sam Pirozzolo, former President CEC 31, candidate for NY City Council 50
5th grader Jake Giufre, pictured at the rally on Saturday, spoke against mandatory vaccines
Leticia Remauro, who is running for Staten Island Borough President, and school child Jake Giufre, pictured on Saturday presenting the group’s NYC DOE Parents’ Coalition Counter offer
NY Teachers for Choice is also circulating a petition that opposes a vaccine mandate for educators that lawmakers could propose in January. It had just over 16,000 signatures as of Sunday
As pharmaceutical companies race to manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine, many people have voiced concerns over the speed of its arrival.
While some professions could require employees to get the vaccine, requiring teachers and pupils to take the shot could set the stage for a showdown between reluctant or frightened parents and education officials keen to get children back into classrooms over a very disruptive year.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, pictured during a press conference outside PS 15 Roberto Clemente School in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Sep. 29, 2020, was the intended target of Saturday’s protest against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations
Caterina Gelardi, 24, a member of NY Teachers for Choice, which sponsored the Staten Island demonstration, said on Saturday: ‘We’re not anti-vax. However, we are against the mandate of the COVID-19 vaccine. We believe that as an American, you should have the right to choose’, as reported in The New York Post.
She also raised concerns over the federal government’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ program to develop a vaccine meaning the vaccine might not be safe because it was rushed.
Jamie Melisi, 37, who has a 7-year-old in public school, said that parents wouldn’t be allowed to drop kids off at a doctor’s office without accompanying them, and schools shouldn’t be allowed to treat kids without parents present.
‘They do not own our children,’ Melisi said, ‘we have our rights as parents.’
NY Teachers for Choice is also circulating a petition that opposes a vaccine mandate for educators that lawmakers could propose in January and claims lawmakers ‘are making decisions based on Big Pharmaceutical influenced lobbying instead of the health and well-being of constituents, teachers, families and children.’
The petition had more than 16,000 signatures by Saturday afternoon.
The group is also opposed to on-site testing in schools.
‘Medical procedures should never be performed on a child without a parent present’, Gelardi said. ‘This must stop and it must end now.’
President-elect Joe Biden has said he is not in favor of making vaccinations mandatory, with the federal government limited in its powers to enforce them.
States, however, do have the authority to require vaccinations and have done so in the past, with penalties or denials or services for those who refuse, rather than forced vaccinations.
New York Assembly member Linda Rosenthal’s bill A11179 has passed the Senate after it was introduced on December 4.
Once the vaccination program has been rolled out for a while, the bill would give the Department of Health the authority to ‘mandate vaccination’ to anyone who can ‘safely receive the vaccine’ if public health officials see that New Yorkers aren’t developing ‘sufficient immunity from COVID-19’, due to a low uptake of the shot.
Rosenthal told FOX 5 NY that if less than 70% of the population voluntarily gets vaccinated then the mandate should take effect.
‘Then the state Department of Health would have the ability to say that more people have to get it,’ Rosenthal said.
Fifty-eight percent of American adults said that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine, a recent Gallup poll found.
On Thursday New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said there is a slim chance that the vaccine could be mandatory for police officers.
‘It’s not gonna be mandatory. That’s the plan right now,’ Shea told The New York Post. ‘Could that change? It could. But I don’t think that’s gonna change.’