Nevada county health board unanimously strikes down COVID-19 vaccine ban request

Elko County Board of Health Chair Dr. Bryce Putnam said the item was a result of a citizen request.

Updated: January 19, 2023 - 9:42pm

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The Elko County Board of Health in Nevada unanimously struck down an agenda item considering a county-wide ban on COVID-19 and flu vaccines during a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Elko County Board of Health Chair Dr. Bryce Putnam said the item was a result of a citizen request during the last commissioners' meeting.

Board members emphasized Elko’s record in supporting individuals’ rights to make their own health care decisions.

“I find it hypocritical that we would consider banning people from taking the vaccine when we’ve argued for two years now that we can’t order people to take the vaccine,” said County Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi, noting that he agrees with many concerns surrounding the vaccines.

“Please be careful when you consider taking the vaccine,” Andreozzi said. “But as a county we are not going to impose a moratorium, as far as I am concerned.”

In 2021, Elko County banned the use of “vaccine passports” and voted to defy a mask mandate implemented by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Dr. Putnam, who said he helped organize the implementation and distribution of the vaccine in Elko County, agreed the government had no authority to impose a moratorium.

“Elko County showed profound leadership during the pandemic,” added Putnam. “We said from the start that everybody should have the right to make that choice by themselves. We disagreed among each other, but we all agreed that everybody should have the right to ask those questions.”

In a public comment delivered via email, American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada Policy Specialist Tamika Shauntee said the moratorium would be “subject to a legal challenge” if passed.

“A moratorium on vaccinations would be an egregious injustice,” Shauntee said. “Whether those in Elko take advantage of influenza or COVID vaccines, offered readily throughout the country, is not your decision.”

“This proposed moratorium is not only dangerous, but it is also unlawful,” Shauntee continued.

Prior to the meeting, six constituents submitted comments opposing the ban and two submitted comments in favor. One Elko County resident of 30 years said she was “appalled” by the proposal.

“I work in the vaccine world,” said another constituent during the meeting. “But I have stood by people who have read the information and then made the choice not to get the vaccine. That is what is great about this county. We do not cower down. We allow everyone to be individuals.”