COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The El Paso County Board of Health put off a vote Wednesday on a resolution expressing support for vaccination against COVID-19. The decision came as a small crowd protested outside of the Citizens Service Center and many others gathered inside to speak in opposition of the resolution.
The resolution would have made the public declaration that the Board of Health believes vaccination is the best prevention measure against serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
It also encouraged local boards and governments to advocate for vaccination, and it authorized individual board members and the public health director to advocate in support of vaccination.
Yet, many of the protesters said they believed that the board was preparing to issue a vaccine mandate.
"It should be your decision if you want to get vaxxed or not and keep it out of our schools," said Juli Henri, a candidate running for the Republican nomination to US Senate.
"People decided to get together because they're tired of trying to be, tired of the mandates they're trying to impose on the people," added Rebecca Keltie, a candidate running for the Republican nomination to US House of Representatives for the 5th Congressional District.
The idea of a pro-vaccine proclamation was introduced at the previous board of health meeting held on October 27. Earlier in the month, the El Paso County Board of Commissioners had approved a proclamation opposing vaccine mandates.
Commissioners Cami Bremer and Longinos Gonzalez Jr. serve on the Board of Health.
"The resolution we passed about a week and a half ago caught some by surprise," Commissioner Bremer said at the October meeting.
Board member Kari Kilroy told her colleagues that she thought the county was sending the wrong message and wanted the board of health to consider a proclamation in support of vaccination.
"So, what I would ask my fellow board members, including the two of you, is that the board of health would issue a resolution, some sort of statement saying that we support vaccination," she said at the time.
By the time Wednesday's meeting began, many of the protesters had grown suspicious that the board was planning more dramatic action.
"If she (Kilroy) is willing to go that far, how much further is she willing to go," Keltie said. "She's doing this over a temper tantrum, it's ridiculous."
Wednesday's board of health meeting was held virtually. Many people had signed up to give public comments on the proposed resolution. Even with 1-minute time limit, it still took about two and a half hours to get through the list of speakers.
Board President Dr. James Terbush proposed that the resolution be tabled following the public comments portion of the meeting.
Board member Ted Collas expressed regret for the many speakers who came to speak out against the mandate.
"Unfortunately, a lot of them came to the meeting with the idea that we were going to mandate something and that is very unfortunate," Collas said. "It cost them a bunch of their time to stay around that long when that was never our intention."
Dr. Terbush and other board members expressed appreciation for those who spoke up. The board did not set another date for when the resolution might be voted on again.