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Clark County Council chair uses misinformation to question COVID vaccine safety

The science is clear. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective. But health officials have been getting some pushback despite the evidence.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — The science is clear. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective. But health officials have been getting some pushback despite the evidence.

The latest case in point: Clark County, where some misinformation flew at a board of health meeting. 

All you have to do is look at what happened at Ridgefield High School on Wednesday to see that some people disagree about how to stop a deadly pandemic. 

People protested a vaccination clinic at the school that was organized student body leaders and coordinated through Clark County Public Health. They also protested ongoing mask-wearing by students.

At the exact same time Wednesday, the Clark County Board of Health was in a meeting led by Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring O'Brien.

“Kids don’t have the wherewithal to really think this through for themselves," O'Brien said. 

Among other things, she wants vaccination clinics at schools stopped, and she used misinformation to make her point. 

Addressing Clark County Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick, she said, “I really wish you would consent to parents giving their permission to this experimental vaccine.” 

Melnick replied, “We are getting parental consent and council chair O'Brien, it's not an experimental vaccine; these vaccines have gone through many trials. We are not experimenting on people.”

KGW spoke to Dr. Melnick Thursday to ask how he felt about hearing inaccuracies the day before. He looked at the bright side and kept his response short. 

“It gives me an opportunity to provide the appropriate information," he said. 

Earlier in the board meeting O'Brien suggested the health board require adults to show identification to prove they are the guardian of kids set to get vaccinated. She had support from county councilors Gary Medvigy and Karen Bowerman. They all said they'd like to explore the legality of the board imposing an ID requirement.

Dr. Melnick explained that showing ID would not prove guardianship and more importantly that it would serve as a barrier to people getting vaccinated, especially immigrants and people of color.

“My job is to get the right information out and I will continue to do that,” Dr. Melnick said Thursday.

He added, “Most parents want their kids to be vaccinated and most parents appreciate the fact that we had a site at the school site and it made it more convenient for them as well as people living in the community to get vaccinated. And I would point out that parents who want their kids vaccinated have rights too.”

KGW requested additional comment from county chair O’Brien on Thursday morning.  She had not responded to that request by Thursday evening.