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August 17, 2022

Anti-vaccine protestors crash Watsonville school clinic

WATSONVILLE—In the days after California began to offer Covid-19 vaccines for children 12 and older, thousands across the state lined up for their turn.

In Santa Cruz County, a total of 1,200 young people got their vaccines at Scotts Valley High School, Dominican Hospital’s Employee Training center and at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Watsonville over three days, according to Santa Cruz County Office of Education Superintendent Faris Sabbah.

On May 20, more than 400 students received their vaccine at the middle school, which was a collaborative effort by Pajaro Valley Unified School District, the county office and Safeway, Sabbah said.

As students and parents arrived at Cesar Chavez, a group of about six anti-vaccine protestors also arrived, passing out literature and using a megaphone to shout at the people entering the clinic, Sabbah said.

The protesters were yelling slogans such as “don’t be a lab rat,” “Shame on you” and “You’re teachers, not medical providers,” Sabbah said. 

Others were saying that PVUSD “had no business” setting up a vaccine clinic, and that the district kept students home under Covid-19 restrictions “for no reason.”

Medical science has long ago proven that vaccines are safe and effective, and theories that they cause diseases such as autism have been thoroughly debunked. 

Washington, D.C.-based Children’s Health Defense, which some of the protesters claimed to be representing, did not respond to several requests for comment.

Sabbah said he supports protestors’ right to express their freedom of speech. But the way in which they were doing it, he said, was “disrespectful.”

“And a lot of what they were saying was inaccurate,” he said. 

This includes one man telling him that a magnet would stick to the site of newly vaccinated arms, Sabbah said.

“I support speaking up, but these were young people, they were already nervous when they were arriving, and the parents were nervous,” he said. “This was not the time to try to intimidate them because I think that was the intention: to scare them away from participating. And I think that was unethical.”

At one point, Sabbah said, a woman began to film the students and live-stream it to Instagram. She stopped when Sabbah told her that it is illegal to film people at a health clinic, he said. 

After a while of this, Sabbah said that he and several others lined up a row of SUVs to block the protestors’ view. In addition, he turned on his car’s sound system and played the Mexican band Maná, including their hit “Me Vale,” which roughly translates to “I don’t care.”

Sabbah says that he trusts the doctors and the majority of the medical community that says vaccines in general—and the Covid-19 vaccine in particular—are safe.

“This is a part of our community commitment to well-being,” he said. “I took my son that day to be vaccinated. I trust the science and I trust the doctors I work with. I would never encourage anybody in the community to do something that I wouldn’t support for my own child.”

In the interest of reporting a balanced story, The Pajaronian made every effort to contact the anti-vaccination protestors, and a group that supports that cause. Anyone from the group that was at Cesar Chavez Middle School on Friday, or who knows those people, are welcome to call this reporter at 831-761-7327. 


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