Vaccines kept my family safe, but they should not be mandated at El Camino


Editorial photograph taken Sept. 9, 2022. (Delfino Camacho | The Union)

Near the beginning of 2020, I was afraid that COVID-19 would kill my parents.

Footage showcasing crowded emergency rooms and trucks converted into make-shift morgues as news outlets began reporting on rising death rates eventually increased my fear.

My worries were not completely unfounded.

My parents are both elderly and severely immunocompromised. My father, 70, had open heart surgery to replace a heart valve in 2013, and my mother, 69, underwent a liver transplant to save her life in 2014.

Following their operations, doctors told them they needed to be extra careful. Even something as small as the common flu could kill them.

My sister and I would have to be the caretakers for the foreseeable future. The lives of our parents were literally in our hands.

My sister and I were both designated essential workers. Our jobs required us to be out on the front lines during the first few months of the pandemic.

We both decided that we could not risk the possibility of infecting our parents. We began changing our clothes outside when returning home from work and would disinfect everything we touched.

My sister and I decided to quarantine ourselves in our bedrooms.

My parents and I lived as strangers for the better part of the year.

Already limited in what they could do before COVID-19, the isolation began taking a heavy toll on my parents, effectively imprisoning them within their own house.

The vaccine was their saving grace.

In mid-December of 2020, the first doses of the newly authorized vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. first started rolling out.

By March 2021, almost a full year since their health imposed quarantine, my parents got vaccinated. My sister and I interacted with them for the first time in nearly a year.

I credit the vaccine for keeping my family together as I believe vaccines are the best possible way to fight the pandemic.

That being said, I no longer believe that vaccines should be mandated here at El Camino College. I believe it should remain every student’s choice.

All students must be vaccinated to attend in-person classes at El Camino College. While medical and religious exemptions are allowed, all other unvaccinated students are not allowed within the premises.

I understand that they are doing what they think is best for the safety of the students, but I think El Camino should rethink the mandate.

According to the Los Angeles County Office of Public Health, COVID-19 positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths are on a downward trend.

While the situation is not over, the danger is decreasing.

One might argue that the mandate is to protect those already vaccinated and who wish not to interact with non-vaccinated students.

While I understand the intent, the reality is that the moment students walk off campus, they risk interacting with unvaccinated people. The mandate is more of an illusion of safety than safety itself.

Many students who feel they lost the two previous years are ready to continue their education. For many, online courses do not offer the proper support compared to in-person classes.

While many schools adhere to vaccine mandates, some have done away with them. Santa Monica College, for instance, has revoked its vaccination policy but kept its mask mandates while providing programs to educate and offer free vaccines to students.

Colleges such as El Camino are struggling to bring back and retain students, with some classes this semester being canceled due to low enrollment.

El Camino should allow unvaccinated students to return while keeping their mask and distance procedures in place.

At this pandemic stage, there are ways to guarantee the safety of vaccinated and at-risk people while including those unvaccinated students who want an education.

Vaccines were a saving grace for my parents and my family, but they remained our choice.

Despite our extreme safety precautions and vaccinations, my parents got COVID-19 twice. The vaccines and boosters did their job, and my at-risk parents came out of the experience in good health.

However, it’s my opinion that if you are vaccinated, boosted, and still adhering to safety precautions, you will be relatively safe interacting with people that choose to be unvaccinated.

While El Camino has nothing but good intentions, I think it is time to eliminate the mandate and instead focus on educating students who choose to learn.