At GCSD, vax not required for spring sports

— Still frame from March 8 Guilderland School Board meeting
Nicole Coonradt, in foreground, tells the Guilderland School Board that vaccination against COVID-19 should be a choice for parents and children to make together with their doctor. Monica Mare told how horribly her 17-year-old daughter suffered from the vaccine.

GUILDERLAND — With the spring sports season approaching, the Guilderland School Board decided on March 8 that athletes in high-risk sports no longer need to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19.

The meeting had opened with Nicole Coonradt telling the board that sports are a necessity for her 12-year-old daughter who uses them as an outlet to curb her anxiety.

Coonradt said that vaccination should be a choice for parents and children to make together with their doctor.

Coonradt brought with her a friend, Monica Mare, who lives in the Burnt Hills School District. Mare related a stunning story about her 17-year-old daughter, who had been given a full scholarship to the Albany College of Pharmacy.

Her daughter, who was eager to be vaccinated, had her first shot last May 28 and ended up in convulsions on the floor, Mare said. She was hospitalized for five days at Albany Medical Center.

“They couldn’t find anything wrong but they sent her home with full convulsions,” Mare reported. Her daughter has since suffered from more convulsions, heart palpitations, chest pain, leg paralysis, brain fog, periods of slurred speech, and the feeling of ice running through her veins, said Mare.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, as of March 14, over 216.7 million United States residents are fully vaccinated. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 16 percent of United States residents are resistant to getting vaccinated with 20 percent citing side effects as the top reason.

The CDC — while stating, “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective” — regularly posts updates on serious side effects to the vaccine, including anaphylaxis, which occurs in 5 out of a million vaccinated people; thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome with 57 confirmed cases; Guillain-Barré Syndrome with 303 preliminary reports; and myocarditis and pericarditis with 2,261 preliminary reports.

The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, created in 1986 under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, serves as a “no-fault” system, funded by an excise tax on covered vaccines, to compensate families for injuries likely caused by vaccines.

In 1986, the program covered six childhood vaccines but 10 more have since been added, including the annual flu vaccine in 2005, which led to such a large number of cases that the system could be overwhelmed.

“I don’t think the government or the school ever had the right to require that a student be vaccinated to participate in a school sport,” wrote Michele Teague in a letter to the Guilderland School Board, which was read at the March 8 meeting. “All school sports are and always have been participate at your own risk and I feel a line was crossed.”

Melissa Dover expressed similar sentiments in her letter to the board: “I am writing to ask the board to please reconsider the vaccine requirement for our children who would like to play in high risk sports. This vaccine shouldn’t be a requirement but a choice for parents to make.”

The Guilderland board had passed its resolution in September, requiring students to be tested weekly or to be vaccinated in order to play high-risk sports, that is, sports involving close contact. Guilderland has just two high-risk sports in the spring season: Unified basketball and lacrosse.

Superintendent Marie Wiles noted that the resolution applied to students 16 and older and was in effect during “periods of high transmission.” She noted, too, that the resolution doesn’t reference high, medium, or low but says to follow guidance from the CDC and the state’s health department.

When the school board met on March 8, Albany County was designated by the CDC, under its new system, as having a “medium” community level, with Wiles noting it was “a fraction of a point from being a low designation.”

Albany County has since been designated as “low.”

Given the medium, soon-to-be low community level, Wiles recommended, based on the board’s September resolution,vaccination or weekly testing no longer be required.

Applause from the gallery greeted the announcement.



The statewide mask mandate for schools was lifted on March 2.

Wiles reported that, on March 2, a “healthy proportion” of students came to school with and without masks. As the week wore on, she said, more and more students went without masks although “plenty of staff” and some students are still wearing masks.

Board members and administrators were maskless at the March 8 meeting.

Wiles also said there have been “no reports of students feeling mocked or jeered or pressured” for either wearing or not wearing masks.

Two parents wrote to the school board, asking that Guilderland reinstate the mask requirement.

Janice Slavik referenced a study showing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only shot currently authorized for people younger than 16, was less effective for 5- to 11-year-olds. The study showed that the vaccine still prevented severe illness and death but was less effective in preventing spread of the virus.

New York State health officials collected data, reported in an article, not yet certified by peer review, that found effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the Omicron era, “declined rapidly for children, particularly those 5-11 years.”

“However,” it went on, “vaccination of children 5-11 years was protective against severe disease and is recommended.” The drop in efficacy may be because the younger children received one-third of the dose given to older kids.

“While Governor Hochul has caved to the pressure from the fanatical anti-mask people who don’t understand science, the district and school board does not have to join her,” Slavik wrote.

She suggested waiting until warmer weather allowed classroom windows to be opened. “I am disappointed that our school community is placing politics and popularity over safety,” Slavik wrote.

Abigail Ritter cited the same study and wrote, “Layered mitigation has been the only proven strategy to fight this airborne disease. Masking indoors, where airspace is shared, is critical to the health of our children.”

Board President Seema Rivera responded that Guilderland currently is recommending but not requiring masks at school.

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