Clark County residents provide testimony before the Board of Health about past false promises
For Clark County Today
Despite the inclement weather in the area, the Clark County Board of Health (BOH) still held its meeting scheduled for Wednesday, February 22. In attendance were several area residents who braved the weather to bring a message to the board. That message: “We have not forgotten the false promises of this Board of Health.”
Rob Anderson of Reform Clark County led the charge, encouraging other residents to show up and testify along with him. During his allotted time, Anderson focused on the “I Got the Shot” campaign from April through June of 2021, where Clark County Public Health (CCPH) Director Dr. Alan Melnick used primarily social media to encourage people to get a COVID-19 shot. Anderson says the campaign was full of false promises.
“Dr. Melnick told the community that getting the shot would stop the transmission of COVID and ‘protect’ themselves and their loved ones,” Anderson said. “That was a lie. There was no credible data to prove these statements, but there was evidence that they knew these messages were not true. Yet, he put it out anyway.”
Anderson submitted images of the campaign for the public record but also brought them along to share at the meeting. The images included people like Councilor Gary Medvigy saying he got his shot so he could “return to normal life” without “worrying about infecting others.” Other reasons for getting the shot, according to the campaign images, included “to help keep people safe,” “to protect himself and people he cares about,” and “to help build protection for my community.”
During his testimony, Anderson pointed out that the comments being pushed by the “I Got the Shot” campaign were contrary to what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was saying. He also asked the question about the differences in messaging at the time of the campaign, which he said went unanswered. Anderson brought an image that was found at the time on the bottom of the CCPH website, “We don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you don’t get sick yourself. The CDC will continue to provide updates as more is learned.”
“But this ‘I Got the Shot’ campaign put out a whole different and contrary message,” Anderson said. “There was definitely a message being put out that if you got the vaccination, you would stop the spread …The word ‘protect’ is constantly used in this campaign, but the truth was, people were not being protected from infection and transmission.”
Also speaking during the meeting was Bob Runnells from Informed Choice Washington. Runnells pointed out that the BOH, though they claim on the county’s website to have “final authority” over matters pertaining to preservation of the life and health of people within Clark County, never questioned the Department of Health (DOH) response to the recent pandemic. This, despite the opportunity they had to “stop ineffective and discriminatory mandates,” Runnells said. “DOH messaging was full of over promises and misleading statements. You might even call it misinformation.”
Runnells continued by pointing out the vast decline in trust in public health since the pandemic. “Trust is the currency of public health; trust is built through communication,” he said, “and consistently accurate information. This is all the more important when public health agencies can reach nearly everyone through various means, including what seems like a direct line to the editors of our local newspaper monopoly. This county health department has great influence in consumer decisions. If the County reuses messages without screening for accuracy, it exposes county consumers to messaging that, when errant, can be dangerous and will continue to undermine trust in public health, Councilor Medvigy.”
Runnells told Clark County Today that he had to say Councilor Medvigy’s name at that point because the Councilor had been looking down and typing on his phone for nearly the entire presentation. “I was about to lose my cool,” Runnells said. “I should have just stopped and asked the timer to pause if his long texting session was so urgent. I felt extremely disrespected during that small portion of time I was allowed to address the council. I’ll just have to trust that he reads my written comments with the citations to linked studies and the vaccine insert, and I pray he realizes that he continues to be hoodwinked by his Department of Health personnel.”
A survey from 2021 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was brought up regarding public trust in local and state health departments, which showed that 55-60 percent of people only “somewhat” trusted or “not at all” trusted these agencies. Runnells then mentioned a study from January of 2023 that showed the trend worsening, with nearly half of all people trusted the agencies “not at all.”
The State Department of Health, Runnells said, is at least taking these surveys into consideration by announcing that “rebuilding trust in public health” is included among their top resolutions for the current year.
“This is a grave problem that this board and county manager need to step up and address,” Runnells said. “What’s the solution? First, tell the truth! Correct the error in messaging. The county and the world now know the shots don’t stop infection or transmission, so the argument ‘to protect others’ doesn’t hold water…Using information from other departments does not absolve the Health Department, health officer, or this council when this information is inaccurate. That’s when we need you the most!”
Anderson and Runnells both said that none of the counselors addressed their comments during the meeting, and neither have heard from them since the meeting either.
Clark County resident Melissa Leady also spoke and made the statement, “The pharmaceutical industry did not make the claim the vaccines would stop transmission. Public Health did. Clark County Public Health did.” Further, Leady said, “It appears as though the ‘I Got the Shot’ campaign was designed to guilt healthy, young people into getting a vaccine, on the unsupported promise they would be protecting their vulnerable loved ones.” Leady pointed to flawed and unsupported, non-peer-reviewed studies used by CCPH to make the decisions they did during the pandemic. “I do not blame those who participated in the I Got the Shot Campaign,” she said. “They trusted public health. The question is, what science was public health relying on?”
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