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School District Survey Finds Strong Support for Vaccine Mandate

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By Jorge Casuso

December 16, 2021 -- An large majority of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District parents, students and staff said they would support a mandate on vaccines for students, according to a survey released by the District Thursday.

The survey was issued one day after a University of Columbia study found the rapidly spreading but mild Omicron variant is “markedly resistant” to vaccines and could pose a risk to those who have received a booster shot.

The survey, which received 3,524 responses, found that:

  • 68 percent said they would be "very supportive" of a vaccine mandate for high school students, while 8 percent would be "somewhat supportive." Fifteen percent said they would be "very unsupportive." The rest were either neutral or somewhat unsupportive;

  • 65 percent were very supportive of vaccine mandates for middle school students, 10 percent somewhat supportive and 16 percent very unsupportive;

  • 56 percent very supportive and 9 percent somewhat supportive of mandating vaccines for elementary school students, while 20 percent were very unsupportive, and

  • 67 percent of the 2,242 parents of children between 5 and 11 years old surveyed said they had vaccinated or planned to have their children vaccinated over the next 60 days. 19 percent had not had and didn't plan to have their children vaccinated and 14 percent were unsure..

Superintendent Ben Drati said in an open letter Thursday that the School Board has asked staff to prepare a discussion item for a board meeting in January to go over the results of the survey.

The Board also will discuss "other additional data regarding vaccination status of our students, district case positivity rate, and other important information," Drati said.

"We would then use the information to inform future decisions around the safety protocols we are currently executing."

Of those surveyed, a total of 93 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied "with the overall protocols established by the district" and with its COVID testing program.

Far fewer -- 67 percent -- were very or somewhat satisfied with the District's outdoor masking protocol.

The survey results come as the Omicron variant -- which studies show spreads far more rapidly then the highly contagious Delta variant but is far milder -- is gaining a foothold in Los Angeles County.

So far, there have been 30 cases of the new variant reported in the County, with 12 of those cases confirmed Thursday, according to County Health officials.

Of the total reported cases 24, or 80 percent, were among fully vaccinated persons, according to the County data. None were reported to have been hospitalized.

“All indications are that Omicron can spread rapidly among both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals," said Barbara Ferrer, the County's Public Health director.

"Early data suggests that many of those fully vaccinated do not experience serious illness."

The Columbia University study released Wednesday found that the Omicron variant has a “large number of spike mutations that pose a threat to the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapies."

Authored by more than 20 scientists at Columbia and the University of Hong Kong, the study found that “even a third booster shot may not adequately protect against Omicron infection.”

The Omicron variant appears to be far less deadly than previous versions of the coronavirus. So far, one person has died with the variant, which has been detected in 36 states.

For results of district-wide survey click here

For results of survey by school sites click here

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