Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith and other faculty members discussed the State Center Community College District vaccination mandate, vaccination effectiveness and more during an open forum on Sept. 10, 2021.
Goldsmith began the forum by addressing the nation’s political division over vaccinations.
“We live in a divided time. We live in a time where there is a lot of mistrust, division and arguing. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the conversations on the left and the conversations on the right,” she said.
Goldsmith then shared clips of various public figures such as co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association Dolores Huerta and former United States President Donald Trump encouraging their supporters to get vaccinated.
COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness, Q&A
John Zweifler, medical consultant at Fresno County Public Health Department, said COVID-19 is very similar to the common cold in that it is spread through respiratory transmission such as talking, coughing, sneezing, playing an instrument and singing.
He added that higher risk situations of getting COVID include being unvaccinated, being in crowded areas, indoors around others who are not masked or vaccinated, being pregnant, having underlying medical conditions and more.
He said each of these things can spread the virus which is why masks and getting vaccinated is so important.
According to Zweifler, the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths by 70 to 80%.
He added that the vaccines and side effects have been studied extensively. To gain Federal Drug Administration approval, vaccines have to go through a rigorous process of testing on animals, small groups of individuals and then thousands of individuals.
Zweifler reminded students and faculty that the Pfizer vaccine is now FDA approved. He said he expects the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines to be approved soon. Both these vaccines currently have emergency use approval by the FDA, according to Zweifler.
Addressing some skepticism about the vaccines, Zweifler said revolutionary technology that uses antibodies to address specific kinds of illnesses and allow for major advances in medicine is how effective COVID vaccines were developed in such a short period of time.
Another misconception brought up was the belief that vaccines implement tracking devices inside of people. Zweifler said this is not true and that it is unfortunate rumors like this are considered credible.
Goldsmith said she believes a lot of misinformation is being spread on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, where anyone who has gotten their vaccine can report side effects.
In terms of side effects, expected side effects are redness and soreness at the injection, fever and headaches but these usually resolve within a couple days.
There are also other very rare side effects that can occur such as blood clots and Myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart. However these are very rare and have occurred in one of thousands of people vaccinated, according to Zweifler.
Pandemic of the Unvaccinated
According to Goldsmith, the current wave of COVID is being categorized as the, “Pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Zweifler said this is because surveys and facts say that 90-95% of people in the hospital are unvaccinated, which is far out of proportion to the population as a whole.
He added that most of the unvaccinated and those in the hospital now tend to be younger than 50 years old.
In addition, he said tracking positive COVID cases and contact tracing is so distracting and disruptive to the educational process and the academic process.
For this reason, Zweifler said he is proud of community colleges for taking the difficult step in trying to get students vaccinated so they can focus on education and not have the process derailed by the virus.
Almost 80% of California community colleges have a vaccine mandate of some type. This represents more than three quarters of the California community college students that are going to be vaccinated, according to Goldsmith.
COVID’s Impact on Hospitals
According to Zweifler, hospitals are overwhelmed.
“It starts from the beginning. Our ambulance systems are overrun because we’re getting calls that people can’t breathe but there aren’t any ambulances available. You go to the emergency room but the emergency room is filled up,” he said. “If you’re really sick, you need to be in a hospital but the hospital’s filled up. The intensive care unit is also filled up. It’s filled up all along the chain. It’s all at maximum capacity.”
Zweifler added that this has caused a level of physical and emotional burnout for frontline workers dealing with individuals who can’t breathe, who don’t have family members around them and still have to worry about exposing their families to COVID-19.
In addition, he said there are nurses who are just not not willing to work anymore and so staffing has become an issue that further limits the capacity of the healthcare system.
Information on SCCCD Vaccination Mandate
Goldsmith said the district is still working on a system for students to submit their vaccination statuses and expects more information to be released soon.
Faculty and staff can already report their vaccination status to the COVID vaccine submission page on the district portal.
In addition, Goldsmith reminds students that medical and religious exemptions will be honored.
She added that deans, faculty members and counselors are working on possible options for those who are seeking exemptions.
“We asked for everybody to have a little bit of patience while we work this out. Similarly, we can continue to encourage you to stay focused on your studies, stay focused on being present and working with us because we will continue to provide education and work for your success, so don’t drop out,” she said.
$250 Bookstore Voucher Information
According to Goldsmith, approximately 4,100 students have received a $250 voucher to FCC’s bookstore.
Vouchers are valid until Sept. 24 and can be used in the bookstore and online to purchase textbooks, supplies and more.
To receive a voucher, students must provide their current FCC Associated Student Body card and vaccination card.
Past Open Forums
Sept. 3 Open Forum: SCCCD Vaccination Mandate, COVID Mitigation Measures at FCC and More
Aug. 26 Open Forum: SCCCD Vaccination Mandate, Wellness Resources and More
Aug. 19 Open Forum: Decline in Enrollment, Class Delivery Methods and More