THIS GUEST OPINION PIECE BY: Stephanie Pickup is an award-winning community servant who has received local and national recognition. She is the founder of No Hate. Know Love., a project that promotes tolerance, acceptance, and love for all. She is a firm believer that the principles of liberty provide all Americans with the greatest opportunity for happiness, peace, and prosperity.

Without any long-term studies or FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccines, parents and individuals have the absolute right to question, and decline, mandated vaccination.

Three of my four children plan to attend college this fall. Many colleges and universities are mandating COVID-19 vaccinations. Schools like UMass Dartmouth are openly discriminating against one’s personal health care decisions. Students without a COVID-19 vaccine will be denied physical access to campus while UMD staff and faculty are exempt from the mandate.

We cannot allow our government, our schools, our communities, nor our fellow citizens to extort individual liberty with threats of societal exclusion and discrimination based on declining a vaccine that operates under an Emergency Use Authorization, minimal data, no guaranteed effectiveness, and no understanding of long-term side effects.

According to the CDC, young adults ages 18-24 have a 99.9 percent survival rate if they contract COVID-19. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has even published an open letter to universities urging them to reverse COVID-19 vaccine mandates for students. Demanding college students inject themselves with a vaccine that was hastily pushed through the FDA using emergency measures is unwarranted.

I understand the importance of healthy communities. Vaccines have played a critical role in protecting against illness; however, it is unacceptable to force experimental vaccines into citizens who have made the deliberate decision to decline.

Political parties will always disagree but they must rally around the common cause of freedom and individual liberty that benefits all Americans. Partisan politics have driven a wedge between reason and logic. Do not surrender your liberty and bodily autonomy to a collective society that uses guilt, fear, hate, and intimidation to control your decision-making process.

I, like many of you, prefer to avoid conflict but authoritarian policies have forced our hand; apathy is no longer an option. Contact your government representatives. Stand up and voice your opposition to any school, workplace, or organization that discriminates against people who decline COVID-19 vaccines.

Editor's Note: 'SouthCoast Voices' is a series of guest opinions from newsmakers and other people across the region, on relevant issues that directly impact the people of Greater New Bedford and the surrounding communities. The opinions are solely those of the author. If you are interested in contributing, please contact tim@wbsm.com for more information. 

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