Elko County’s Board of Health voted Wednesday against imposing a moratorium on COVID-19 and flu vaccines in the county.
The seven-member board consisting of the county’s five commissioners, sheriff and health officer unanimously agreed they lacked the authority to impose such a moratorium and also decided against proposing the county discontinue advertising for any flu or COVID-19 vaccines.
“We can’t order people to wear masks. I feel the same way about this moratorium,” Commissioner Rex Steninger said. “If somebody wants to take the vaccine, that’s their decision.”
In the past, members of the county commission took hard stances against what they viewed as government overreach, voting to disregard a mask mandate the governor reimposed to stem the spread of an aggressive coronavirus variant in August 2021, ban the use of vaccine passports by any county agency in July 2021 and reject a $500,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November 2022.
The ACLU of Nevada submitted a letter to the board suggesting they would file a lawsuit if members proceeded with a moratorium.
“A moratorium on vaccinations would be an egregious injustice,” representatives with the ACLU wrote. “Whether those in Elko take advantage of influenza or COVID vaccines, offered readily throughout the country, is not your decision.”
The health board rejected the proposal despite support from a majority of community members who testified during public comment.
“I think it’s important for us to remember that people need to be in charge of their own health care from the beginning,” Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi said. “Besides that … I don’t know that we have the actual authority to do that because we’re not the regulatory authority for any of the health care providers.”
Board member and Elko County Health Officer Dr. Bryce Putnam said he is a profound advocate for vaccinations but noted that receiving a vaccine is a personal choice.
“I was a leader/member of the team who organized, developed, implemented and disseminated the COVID vaccine during our pandemic response,” Putnam said. “It was an absolute honor for me to do that for the people who consented here to the vaccine in Elko County, and they did consent. I will always strive to provide access to care where there is need, and especially in this county.”