Vaccine requirement at El Camino still in place as local colleges rescind mandates

While adhering to a strict vaccine requirement, the future of El Camino College’s vaccine mandate will be brought up for discussion during the next Board of Trustees meeting scheduled to take place on Monday, Oct. 17.

The decision to address the mandate for the board’s next meeting was unanimously agreed upon by the Board of Trustees during their Sept. 6 meeting, resulting in the discussion being placed on the agenda’s future action items.

At the Sept. board meeting, Trustee Kenneth Brown brought up the possibility of updating the mandate.

“I’d like to have a conversation about [the] current status of [the] vaccine mandate, if we need to change anything,” Brown said.

Currently, El Camino still enforces a vaccine mandate that requires all students and employees to provide proof of vaccination with few medical and religious exceptions. The mandate was enacted on Sept. 7, 2021 as is detailed in the college’s campus COVID-19 response plan.

An El Camino Health Center employee said that the college no longer offers the full COVID-19 vaccination and only offers the Pfizer variant of the bivalent booster shot.

The El Camino COVID task force is a group made up of campus officials who make preparations and decisions regarding any impact that the pandemic may have on the college community and play an advisory role regarding COVID-19 matters.

“The task force cannot decide on the COVID-19 vaccine resolution, the requirement of the vaccine comes from a resolution that was passed by the Board of Trustees,” El Camino College President Brenda Thames said. “So the task force’s role in this is to make a recommendation to me and then I make a recommendation to the Board.”

Chief of Campus Police Michael Trevis, a member of the task force, said that while he cannot give an official comment regarding the mandate, his opinion is that while people should have choices there are circumstances where rules need to be applied for the “good of everybody.”

Over the past year, Thames and other El Camino administrators have worked hard to navigate the many pitfalls regarding enacting and enforcing mandates, all for the safety of students, faculty and staff.

College officials have made efforts to reduce how much coronavirus mandates interfere with students’ education.

“We have been very intentional and very purposeful on following federal state and local guidance since the county provides guidance of higher education and we’ve been very intentional on following that guidance as well,” Thames said.

Thames said that the only time this guidance was not followed was when the county, state and the CDC ended their mask mandate. El Camino kept their mask mandate in place due to input from the college community.

While safety and health appear to be the top concern for college officials, the matter of low enrollment throughout the California Community College system might also play a factor when debating further mandate changes.

With COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations rates decreasing in LA County more colleges have ended their vaccine requirements.

Currently Santa Monica College, College of the Desert, West LA College, Citrus College, Mt. San Antonio College and Rio Hondo College have ended their vaccine mandates.

Other local colleges such as East Los Angeles College, LA City College, Compton Community College, Pasadena City College, North Orange College and Golden West College have kept their required vaccine mandate, as of this publishing date.

El Camino is currently collecting data from other community colleges that have rescinded their mandates and numerous other school districts that have done so as well to give the Board of Trustees all of the information possible so that an informed decision can be made.

“We’ve decided to be very aggressive in our enrollment management approach and our outreach in recruitment, so we’re going to invest a lot of funds and resources into that,” Thames said.

Trustee Brown said that while the he has not yet seen the future meetings agenda, he is open to discussions and recommendations regarding the mandate at the Oct. 17 meeting

“We need to continue looking at those things,” Brown said. “Because those aren’t just static documents or static decisions.”

The decision will be determined at the next Board of Trustees meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 17, where it is open to the public located on the first floor of the Administration Building.


Story written by Khallid Muhsin and Delfino Camacho with contributions from Khoury Williams and Anthony Lipari