Commissioner blocked from discrediting COVID vaccines on Yamhill County health website

MCMINNVILLE, Ore. — Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett has spoken out against COVID-19 vaccines over the past several months. On Thursday, she tried to convince the county’s top health official to implement changes to the county’s public health website based on vaccine misinformation. She was not successful.

The county’s three-person board of commissioners met with public health administrator Lindsey Manfrin on Thursday to discuss changes proposed by Starrett and Board Chair Lindsay Berschauer.

Some of the changes requested by the two commissioners, which pertained to COVID prevention and in-home care, had already been updated. But Starrett also wanted to make changes expressing doubt that the vaccines really work.

That’s where Manfrin drew the line.

“These are things that are out there that people are buying into and so I think the risk of taking information that has not been proven and putting it on our website is — where do we stop and who’s making those decisions,” said Manfrin.

Commissioner Casey Kulla voiced support for Manfrin.

“Putting something onto a treatment page that is not authorized, that does not have rigorous studies behind it, is irresponsible and brings us into the picture of liability because again, we’re not the doctor,” said Kulla.

RELATED: Yamhill County commissioner continues to push COVID vaccine misinformation

During the two-hour meeting, one of the biggest topics of debate was Starrett lobbying for removing “safe and effective” from the description of the vaccines on the county’s website.

“I’m concerned about our liability when we say getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalization and death, so that we’re making a statement that we know is not true,” said Starrett.

“But the data continues to clearly show that hospitalization and deaths are drastically, drastically reduced by individuals being vaccinated,” Manfrin responded.

Manfrin noted that those who are unvaccinated are 16 times more likely to end up in the hospital with COVID.

The debate had something riding on it: Starrett threatened to block a letter from commissioners, needed to renew the health department’s accreditation, if her demands weren’t met.

“I don’t know, I’m finding this very frustrating,” Starrett said as the discussion neared its end.

Despite that, she thanked Manfrin and agreed to sign off on the letter.

All three commissioners approved it, with Kulla directing a comment to Starrett with his vote.

RELATED: Vaccine mandate kicks in soon for first wave of health workers

“I don’t think it needed to have a conversation where you should have pushed and pushed director Manfrin to change things on the website she didn’t want to change. But given that, I’m in approval of this letter.”

Kulla was the only one who disagreed with commissioners continuing the back and forth about the website. He expressed that he wanted the site to be managed by health professionals, including the Yamhill County Board of Health.

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