Littleton Public Schools (LPS) will stop hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinics on school campuses after two videos surfaced on a far-right Twitter account on Jan. 24 showing alleged students misleading clinic staff in order to receive a shot. Neither student appears to have actually gone through with a vaccination, the videos show.
The clinic was held Jan. 21 at Heritage High School, which the district said was run by Tri-County Health and staffed by employees from Jogan Health, a contractor with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
The first video, posted by the Twitter account Libs of Tik Tok, shows a person filming inside the clinic as he is being checked in for his appointment. A staff member asks the person's name and then their birthday. The person filming says June 3, then pauses for a few seconds trying to think of the year before saying 2001, which would make them 20-years-old. Following this, the staff member asks other questions including their city of residence and if they have any auto-immune disorders. The person filming asks if they need to show I.D., to which they are told no.
After this, the person filming is told to sit down before they are called up to receive their shot. The person begins to hesitate, saying they're worried and asks if they can opt-out. The staff member preparing to administer the shot says he can "absolutely" leave, and the person filming then walks away.
The Twitter account claims this was a 16-year-old student who lied about his age.
The second video is of another person filming staff while being checked in. Staff members ask for a consent form, to which the person gives them a sheet of paper, the contents of which cannot be seen. The staff continue to ask the person's name and birthdate, with the subject answering they are 15.
After being checked-in, the person is called over to receive a shot but then changes his mind. The staff member, ready to administer, tells the person their feelings are "completely valid" before the person filming tells them they will be back tomorrow and walks away.
"Both of these brave students made up names, birthdays and phone numbers for the video," another Tweet reads.
The videos sparked backlash for the district and in an email to parents, faculty and staff, LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert said the district believes Jogan Health staff at the clinic did not follow proper protocol in obtaining a parent or guardian's permission "potentially putting children at risk."
Ewert said the district "incorrectly assumed" that all clinics in Colorado required a parent or guardian to be present during vaccination of minors. Ewert said Tri-County Health told the district the morning of Jan. 25 that the state does not require those under 18 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian when receiving a COVID vaccine, as long as consent has been shared with staff prior to the appointment through the vaccine provider's online scheduling system.
"Please know that LPS does not condone the administration of COVID vaccines or any other vaccines to minors without a parent present to provide consent," Ewert said in his statement.
CDPHE, in an email statement to Colorado Communiy Media, said it believes the videos are part of an anti-vaccine campaign and were made deliberately to scuttle the state's vaccine program. The Twitter account has several anti-vaccine posts.
"We are concerned this incident was an intentional attempt to close down vaccine clinics," the email reads. "School clinics are an important way the state ensures access to COVID-19 vaccines in places that are convenient. We will continue to work with our school partners to plan school clinics and ensure access to the lifesaving vaccine."
Becky O'Guin, spokesperson for Tri-County Health, defended the vaccine staff's judgement and said the videos pose a threat to vaccine accessibility for those who want it.
"Based on the videos in question, it appears that one of the students may have provided a note with written consent from their parent/legal guardian while the other offered inaccurate information about their age (which the provider was unable to confirm based on a State of Colorado public health order prohibiting vaccine providers from requiring an ID)," O'Guin said in an email. "Our judgment is that state protocols appear to have been followed in assessing appropriateness of offering vaccination. Furthermore, since both students seem to have changed their minds and declined vaccination, we are not aware of any student who received the vaccine without parental authorization."
"While we can’t know the intent of the people in the video, we do know that it is hurting those in our community who want and need easier access to the vaccine for themselves and their children and will now have to find another vaccine location," O'Guin continued.
The Twitter account also posted an email allegedly sent by a parent of one of the students to Ewert. The parent's name is blacked-out.
"The district was on notice regarding the problems with pushing the vaccine to minor children at schools," the email reads. "This clinic was held from 3-7 p.m. inside the school, hence it started during school hours when only minor children without parents were present. It was advertised to minor children in advance as vaccine 'information' and ecouraged them to come, even going so far as to state that no identification would be required!"
Ewert, in his statement, said the district did not share information about the clinic directly with students but that since that particular clinic was held at Heritage, its students may have known about it. The district did send information about the clinic in a parent and community newsletter on Jan. 20 and posted information on the district website, Ewert said.
"Heritage administration ensured that the vaccine clinic was not accessible to students during the school day unless they were accompanied by a parent," Ewert said.