Parents, teachers protest against student vaccine mandate across Southern California

SAN DIMAS, Calif. (KABC) -- Parents, teachers and some children took part in a series of protests across Southern California Monday as part of a statewide pushback against California's vaccine mandate for students.

Organizers called for parents to keep their children home or pull them from class as a form of protest against Gov. Gavin Newsom's COVID vaccine mandate.

Outside the Bonita Unified School District building in San Dimas, protesters marched along the sidewalk outside, carrying signs that read "My Body, My Choice," "I call the shot, not you!" and more.

Among them was Carol Wilkerson Runge, a former teacher with the district.

"I have personally been vaccinated. Half of my family has, half has not. But again, freedom of choice," she said.

California schoolchildren who attend in-person will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine, once its fully approved. Enforcement could begin as early as January, but more likely in July.

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California will soon require all students in both public and private schools to get the COVID-19 vaccine once the shot is fully authorized by the FDA.

"We're not strong anti-vaxx type people, we just don't feel there's enough long-term data to justify this mandate," said parent Russell Nord.

Mother Heidi Henry told Eyewitness News she and her whole family contracted COVID-19 two months ago.

"We need to fight for this because they're going to start taking away all of our other freedoms," she said.

A much larger group of protesters gathered at the Huntington Beach Pier to get the same message across, similar to other events that were planned across the state.

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A large group of protesters gathered at the Huntington Beach Pier Monday to protest California's vaccine mandate for students.

"We know that if our children stay home from school that that will impact the funding that schools will get for that day," said parent Babe Prieto, who supports the walkout. "And we want them to know that we're serious about not being forced to vaccinate our children."

Other parents argue students are already required to get immunized for ten other serious diseases in order to attend school in California.

"You typically sign an agreement when your child attends any public school here in the United States that your child will be vaccinated," said Oakland parent Michael Avila. "And there's typically a list of vaccinations/immunizations that your child is required to have."

"It disappoints me that people are continuing to not take the vaccine seriously," said San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Canepa. "As a parent, you want to make sure that your kid is in a safe school setting."

"Please realize that this vaccine is not a slam dunk," said Prieto, who told ABC7 News he is not "anti-vax" and supports other more established immunizations for schoolchildren. "You can still get the disease. You can still pass the disease."

In California, 85% of eligible residents having now received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, a statistic Governor Newsom credits with getting the state to the lowest 7-day case rate in the country.

KGO-TV contributed to this report.

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