“I am angry today:” Jeffcos top health official halts mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics after medical staff harassed

The head of Jefferson County Public Health pulled the agency’s three COVID-19 vaccination vans off the road over Labor Day weekend after nurses and medical staff administering shots to the public were jeered at and harassed by passersby.

JCPH Executive Director Dawn Comstock in an interview late Tuesday said that on Saturday, staff manning a mobile vaccine clinic in Gilpin County, which contracts with Jeffco for health services, were yelled at and threatened by passing motorists.

One driver, she said, ran over and destroyed temporary signs the clinic had put up around its vaccine tent. That same day, someone threw unidentified liquid at a public health nurse who was working a different mobile clinic stationed in front of a Jefferson County restaurant, Comstock said.

“Additional cars drove by screaming obscenities at vaccine staff and throwing garbage at them,” she said. “I will not put the hard-working public health staff in harm’s way.”

Comstock said the Labor Day weekend incidents weren’t the first time she was made aware that her staff was being threatened at mobile vaccine clinics. It’s one thing, she said, to choose not to get vaccinated and another to try and stop others from doing so.

“It’s the epitome of selfishness and I am angry today,” she said.

The pandemic has laid bare the politics that have often arisen around the appropriate response to a disease that has been relentless in its spread and lethality, killing 650,000 in the United States alone. Health care officials and workers, who have overwhelmingly touted the importance of getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, often find themselves crosswise with those who either doubt the safety of vaccines or bristle at the idea of being made to take one.

A similar incident to what happened in Jefferson and Gilpin counties occurred at a Southern California vaccine site in August and the month before, two vaccination centers in France were attacked by what police characterized as protesters angry about vaccine rules. In Hawaii, protesters regularly gathered outside the home of Lt. Gov. Josh Green after the state announced last month that state and county workers would have to show proof of vaccination or face regular tests.

In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis signed a law in May making it illegal to post public health officials’ personal information online that threatens their safety, a practice often referred to as doxxing.

“I feel COVID has killed our better angels,” Comstock said. “People are accepting lies about these safe and effective vaccines. This has got to stop.”

As of Aug. 29, Jefferson County’s three mobile vaccine vans have administered more than 11,000 COVID-19 shots across Jefferson and Gilpin counties since the spring.

“These mobile vaccine clinics have been incredibly effective at bringing the vaccine to community members where they are,” Comstock said.

She said she will only allow the vans to set up at places where security is assured, and is inquiring with state health officials about getting funding to hire security directly.

“Unfortunately it’s not safe anymore,” Comstock said.

Source: Read Full Article