MILWAUKEE — Some people say vaccine mandates protect students and staff while others say it infringes on their rights. To better understand the different perspectives, TMJ4 goes 360 on the potential vaccine mandates for Milwaukee Public School staff.
"Honestly, as long as they are masked, they are using sanitizing practices, not necessarily,” said Kim Sylves, a MPS parent.
She believes vaccines should be up to each person to decide.
"You can't force something on someone if their beliefs don't align with it,” said Sylves.
Fellow MPS parent Michael Ferguson agrees.
"If you want to get vaccinated great, if you don't, great. It's just like your choice, like your body, your choice,” said Ferguson.
MPS parent Katie Grabowski supports vaccine mandates for teachers.
"They are the first line of defense for our small children who can't get vaccinated yet. I think it is part of the responsibility of the teacher to protect their students,” said Grabowski.
If the Milwaukee School Board of Directors mandates vaccines for all staff members it would join at least five other cities includes St. Louis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Denver and New York City, along with seven states, including Oregon, Washington, California, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey and Hawaii, which has or will have a vaccine mandate in place by the fall.
The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association president Amy Mizialko says the union does not have an opinion on the mandate but strongly encourages its members to get the vaccine.
"There are plenty of ways to incentivize and school districts across the nation are doing this so we're looking forward to getting as many folks looped in and we should start with an incentive,” said Mizialko.
Incentives along with a mandate is something the MPS school board is looking at currently. However, the Black Educators Caucus MKE chairwoman, Angela Harris, says they believe a vaccine should be required for teachers.
"Teachers in our districts that are immunocompromised and we want them to be able to feel safe as they return back to the building and at least safe in the idea that the other educators that they work with will will be vaccinated even if the students aren't able to,” said Harris.
Labor attorney Shannon Toole shares the legality of a proposed mandate.
"It is legal for an employer to say, 'hey employees, you must be vaccinated in order to come to work,’” said Toole. "Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, if somebody had a disability that prevented them from getting the vaccine, it's likely that they would be protected from being terminated because they were not vaccinated."
From a health perspective, Dr. Ben Weston, the chief health policy advisor for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management says the vaccine is the best defense we have in ending the pandemic.
"At this point, over 200 million people have received the vaccine in the United States. You would be hard pressed to find drugs or vaccines that have been given to that many people. And have been so carefully studied and followed during that time,” Dr. Weston. "What we have learned from the studies and continue to learn from studies that come out on a daily basis is the vaccine is incredibly safe and incredibly effective.
The school board will take up this issues on Thursday, September 9th at 5:30 p.m. You can have your voice heard on the issue during public comment in a variety of ways. You can sign up to speak either by dial-in at 414-475-8200 and follow the instructions. Or you can register via email going to this website. Or you can email in a public comment to email@example.com. However, it must be received by 3 p.m. on Thursday to be considered.