Trustees mandate COVID-19 vaccine for faculty, students starting January 2022

Cerritos+College+board+of+trustees+votes+to+implement+a+COVID-19+vaccine+mandate%2C+starting+in+January+2022.+Trustees+conduct+their+meeting+on+Oct.+6%2C+2021.+Photo+credit%3A+Vincent+Medina

Cerritos College board of trustees votes to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, starting in January 2022. Trustees conduct their meeting on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

Vincent Medina, Managing Editor

Cerritos College board of trustees voted to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and faculty on campus during their meeting on Oct. 6.

The mandate will go into effect on Jan. 3, 2022.

Staff and students must submit proof of vaccination to the college, or they will not be allowed into any college facilities and are subject to disciplinary action.

Trustees are allowing medical and religious exemption, but those who are exempt must receive weekly testing before entering campus.

Religious exemptions are difficult to obtain, as some local religious leaders are denying exemption notes to their congregations.

Trustee president Cody Birkey, vice president Dr. Shin Liu, Carmen Avalos, Mariana Pacheco, Marisa Perez and student trustee Ninel Sutherland voted in favor of the mandate.

Trustee Zurich Lewis stood alone in his opposition to the vaccine requirement.

“Norwalk La Mirada school board considered a mandate for their students and voted 4 – 3 against the mandate. Some of those students are enrolled in a dual enrollment program,” said Lewis. “I would not like to lose students. If their district does not mandate it, and they have to comply with the mandate here, and possibly not enroll.”

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate that NLMUSD voted against was for district employees and did not affect students.

“I don’t think we understand the toll the pandemic has taken on our healthcare workers,” said student trustee Ninel Sutherland. “They are the ones working on the front lines and they have seen the death over the last year.”

In their previous trustee meeting, faculty and community members threatened to sue the school or resign if the requirement was passed.

“If this does go to court, more than likely the courts will rule in our favor. For the past week, we have met with our legal team to discuss the legality of the mandate,” said the student trustee member.

Cerritos College Faculty Federation also supported the mandate. After conducting a survey of its members, the union found that 87% of faculty would comply with the requirement.

“We are aware of the minority of our colleagues who will not comply. What that might mean for them is that there is a possibility that they may not be able to work for Cerritos College,” said CCFF president Lynn Wang.

Wang also suggested the union could work with the district to find a compromise, where faculty who refuse the vaccine would not be dismissed.

Sarah Lee, a second-year nursing student at Cerritos College, gave additional insight into the vaccine and addressed popular arguments among anti-vaccine advocates.

Those who survived COVID earlier in the pandemic argue that their antibodies provide the necessary protection from the virus.

“Antibodies depend on the variant that person contracted,” said Lee. “The antibodies from the original variant may not work against the Delta variant.”

Lee works at a hospital as part of her studies and sees the staff struggle to keep up with the influx of COVID-19 patients.

“Getting everybody vaccinated would decrease hospitalizations. We see that hospital beds are too full,” Lee described. “If the hospital has too many COVID patients, people with heart attacks, strokes and other conditions are sent to other hospitals.”

“It would be better for everyone to be vaccinated to protect their coworkers and their students,” said Lee.

Cerritos College currently follows a partial COVID-19 vaccine mandate, where students and staff must submit proof of vaccination or weekly negative COVID test results.