Vaccine Mandates Take Away the Rights of Student-Athletes

Sesen Yacob, Staff Writer

Should where you live or go to school be able to force you to do something that you don’t feel comfortable doing just to be able to do something you love? 

This is a question high school student-athletes in many states, including Maryland, are being forced to answer.  There are at least nine states in the U.S., including California, New York, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, that currently require student-athletes to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19 to be eligible for sports. 

In the state of Maryland, at least four counties, including Howard, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, and Montgomery now require a Covid-19 vaccination for student-athletes. In Montgomery County Public Schools, this decision became the rule in September when the Montgomery County Board of Education decided that any student-athlete who wanted to play a winter or spring sport had to be fully vaccinated. In an announcement on  their community update page, MCPS states: “Beginning Nov. 15, 2021, all students participating in the MCPS athletics program will be required to submit proof of full COVID-19 vaccination prior to participation.” This, essentially, forces all winter and spring student-athletes to get their COVID-19 vaccine or give up the sports they love. The argument for a vaccine requirement for sports centers on safety for the athletes, coaches, fans, and anyone who is a part of the sport, even fans. However, people should be allowed to question what they are injecting into their bodies without the fear that something they love could be ripped away from them. Whether athletes get to play sports or not shouldn’t be based on vaccines and mandating it by using it as a scare tactic isn’t fair to the student-athletes who devoted their time to their sport. 

Bethesda Beat writer Caitlynn Peetz wrote about why many in the county agree with the actions taken by interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight on the vaccine mandate. In her article, Peetz states, “Many of the sports, like wrestling and basketball, are considered ‘high risk’ of virus transition.” On the other hand, the vaccine can help hundreds of student-athletes as it can allow them to get back to somewhat of their normal sports activities without suffocating because of the fact that they are wearing masks.

There is no arguing with science. The vaccine does in fact work for the vast majority who choose – or are required – to take it.  However, this comes at a cost, which is citizens having the state shove something down people’s throats. The problem is not with the vaccine, the problem is when the institution you go to – in this case, school – starts to make decisions about how you manage your health for you. To top it all off, they try to scare innocent students who are trying to just play a sport they enjoy by threatening to snatch one of the things they love the most out from under them.  

This makes me wonder why states and the government feel so comfortable making decisions for people. If it begins with stealing their opportunity to play the sport they love, what is next? Where does it end? If schools truly want to teach young people how to think maturely and make their own decisions, they should not force them to do something like take a vaccine that they do not want to get. There are ways to ensure the safety of these student-athletes without the vaccine. They can wear masks and get weekly COVID testing to limit the risk of getting the virus. Institutions must remove the vaccine mandate requirement for student-athletes and let them make the choice themselves.