Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 @ 4:04 p.m. / COVID-19

Del Norte Supervisors Deny Free COVID-19 Vaccines for the Uninsured; Motion to Participate In Bridge Access Program Dies

Photo: Agência Brasília via Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License


Bridge Access Program Participation Agreement 

Bridge Access Program board report


Del Norte County will not participate in a California Department of Public Health program that offers free COVID-19 vaccines to those who don’t have health insurance.

The Board of Supervisors let a motion to take part in the state’s Bridge Access Program die due to lack of a second on Tuesday.
Their inaction came after District 5 Supervisor Dean Wilson pulled the item from the consent agenda and stated — without offering evidence — that he disapproved of “continuing utilization of an experimental that has been proven to be ineffective as far as prevention.”

“It is by definition not a vaccine, though they call it that,” Wilson told his colleagues. “There are and have been shown effective methods for treatment without having these shots being given and also with additional adverse reactions that have been noted and documented and proven from these shots. (They) have no purpose or benefit.”

Wilson did not elaborate on the more effective methods for treating COVID-19 nor the adverse reactions that have been noted and documented and proven from the vaccines.

His colleague, District 2 representative Valerie Starkey urged the Board to approve the county’s participation agreement with the CDPH Bridge Access Program. She said that while she appreciated Wilson’s viewpoints, she felt the vaccine should be available to those who want it.

Under the Bridge Access Program, providers could offer COVID vaccines to uninsurred patients who are 19 years old or older. This includes patients who aren’t covered by Medicare or MediCal, according to the county’s staff report.

Patients will not be billed for the vaccine and won’t be charged an administrative fee, according to the report. Del Norte’s agreement with CDPH, and the Bridge Access Program itself, a product of the Biden Administration, ends on Dec. 31, 2024.

The Board’s tacit decision not to participate in the BAP comes as COVID vaccines are being commercialized for the first time. Though the average price the federal government paid for the most recent COVID-19 booster was roughly $29 per dose, vaccine manufacturers may charge $110-130 per dose, the health policy research, polling and news site KFF reported on Sept. 13.

County supervisors’ inaction also comes about two weeks after the Food and Drug Administration approved two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. These shots are designed to protect against a variant of Omicron that emerged early this year, XBB.1.5, but can also protect people against the current dominant variant, the New York Times reported on Sept. 11.

Regulators will also consider a third shot from Novovax in the coming months, the Times reported.

Wilson has been a vocal critic of COVID-19 safety measures in the past. On May 7, 2020, about two months after COVID was declared a global pandemic, Wilson organized a rally against stay-at-home mandates designed to limit the disease’s spread.

During that rally Wilson, whose family owns the Ocean World aquarium, argued that a “one-size fits-all approach” doesn’t work for rural communities like Del Norte. Del Norte didn’t have the facilities or type of response that allowed for rapid COVID-19 test results to come back, he said.

Wilson also argued that Del Norte County wasn’t a high risk community.

Over the course of the pandemic, 63 Del Norte County residents died of complications from COVID-19, according to California's COVID-19 dashboard.


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