The executive director of Jefferson County Public Health says harassment of staff and medical personnel at mobile COVID-19 vaccination sites is becoming a growing problem. Over Labor Day weekend, JCPH shut down three mobile sites after incidents at two of them, as first reported by the Denver Post.
Dr. Dawn Comstock, the head of JCPH, called the actions of some community members “unacceptable.”
“I’m incredibly upset about the frequency with which our staff at vaccination sites are being mistreated by members of our own community,” Comstock said.
According to Comstock, on Saturday, community members shouted insults and threats at staff at a clinic in Gilpin County, which works with JCPH. A driver also ran over and destroyed signs that were set up around the tent and van they work out of, Comstock said.
At another site in Jefferson County that same day, Comstock said a woman threw a cup of liquid at a staff member.
“We closed one of the clinics early on Saturday and out of an abundance of caution, all three clinics were closed Sunday,” she said.
According to Comstock, there have been at least 15 incidents of harassment at vaccination sites put on by JCPH this year. She said people have thrown live fireworks at staff, tried to steal their supplies, and at one clinic, an individual berated a mother who brought her daughter to get vaccinated.
“We simply cannot to allow opinions and emotions to outweigh the truth, to outweigh the science,” Comstock said. “I think this is a series of isolated events, and these events are occurring because there are so many lies continuing to circulate on social media.”
Comstock said the science behind the vaccine is clear, and JCPH staff will not be intimidated. Moving forward, mobile clinics will continue with added security measures.
“We will be working with our law enforcement partners to try to ensure this handful of extremists are not able to infringe on the rights of those who want to get vaccinated,” she said.
Through the end of August, JCPH had administered more than 11,000 COVID shots through the mobile clinics.
“These have been an amazing way for us to get out into our community and get vaccinations to the people who need vaccinations,” Comstock said.
In a COVID-19 update press conference Wednesday, public health leaders said they were aware of the situation in Jefferson County, as well as a “handful of other isolated incidents.” They encouraged anyone who’s aware of a threat to contact local law enforcement.