A vaccination clinic through Clackamas County Public Health set for Molalla High School on Aug. 23 has been canceled, causing a stir within the community.
Molalla River School District Superintendent Tony Mann said the plan for financial incentives for teens to get their COVID-19 vaccinations at the clinic posed an issue. A second clinic on Sept. 13 has also been canceled.
"Earlier this week, I made the decision to cancel Clackamas County Health's use of our facilities for a community vaccination clinic scheduled to take place in our high school. I learned this clinic planned to include financial incentives to teens to be vaccinated without parent consent," Mann explained. "Providing a financial incentive may encourage some adolescents to go around their parent/guardian, which is not aligned with the values of the district. It was for this reason that the district canceled the county's use of our facilities, but we understand and support the county may seek an alternate location."
Mann noted that in the July school board meeting, he'd told the board that the district administration would not bring any plan forward for a vaccination clinic that targeted students.
"This isn't a new position," Mann said.
The county was offering a $50 incentive to all who would stop by to be vaccinated during the clinic, which Molalla Mayor Scott Keyser took issue with.
"Did you know that your child 14 years of age and over can get this shot with or without your consent?" Keyser wrote in a social media post a day before the cancellation. "And on top of it, they are offering $50 to the kids. This is bribing them with candy."
It's true that children in Oregon may give consent to hospital care and medical or surgical diagnosis or treatment by a physician without the consent of a parent or guardian, but they must be 15 years of age or older.
After the notice of cancellation, Keyser noted his appreciation of the decision in another social media post on Facebook.
"The vaccine event scheduled for Aug. 23 at Molalla High is canceled," he wrote. "I want to thank all of our school board, superintendent and commissioner Shull for hearing the concerns of our community. Thank you to our community for stepping up and letting them know bribing our kids is wrong."
Though it should be noted, the $50 incentive was open to anyone who got the vaccinations, not just teens.
Some wondered what role Clackamas County Commissioner Mark Shull, who has been facing threats of a recall election since taking office in January, played in the cancellation of the event, noting that Keyser seemed to be intimating that Shull played a part in the decision.
County Administrator Gary Schmidt said that Shull played no part in the decision to cancel. Responding to a note from a citizen, Schmidt said, "I have confirmed with our public health director that the county public health team and the superintendent of the Molalla School District made the decision to cancel this vaccination clinic. Commissioner Shull had nothing to do with the decision. We are working with the school district to reschedule the clinic either at the school or another location in Molalla."
But not everyone was happy with the decision and saw the cancelation as particularly unfortunate, given Molalla's low vaccination rates. Only 43.5% of Molalla's population is vaccinated as of Aug. 19, compared to over 70% statewide. Over 6% of Molalla's population has been diagnosed with COVID, a higher rate of spread than the state average.
"I'm just curious when Molalla is going to pull its head out of its collective butt and take vaccinations seriously," Molalla resident Reggie Donald said. "I understand Molalla is a predominantly conservative community, and I appreciate that, but people are getting sick at an alarming rate, and still dying, and this delta variant is now running wild, and it impacts youth. I'm not a fan of the $50 incentive, but I feel that could have been worked through and this thing made to happen. Instead, an opportunity to make a stand against COVID-19 in Molalla is gone and may not come again. I can't help but feel there's political dogma at work here, which shouldn't play a part in these decisions. I just hope the mayor, in all his protestations, hasn't left this city's youth hanging out to dry from a health standpoint."
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