OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — During an Ottawa County Commission meeting Tuesday night, the board passed a resolution that would recommend any vaccine promotion by the county includes ingredients, as well as both risks and benefits.
The resolution also “affirms the right of parents to direct the medical care of their children.” It passed 9-2, with Commissioner Roger Bergman and lone Democrat Commissioner Doug Zylstra voting ‘no.’
The resolution acknowledges that there are already systems in place to receive vaccine waivers for school or child care on the state and county level but expresses that the board “respects individual freedoms and parental rights of the people of Ottawa County to make choices regarding childhood vaccines.”
It recommends that any vaccine promotion by Ottawa County for school and licensed childcare programs include “full and accurate information” about the exemptions and waivers available. It also recommends waiver sessions include “information on both the risks and the benefits of vaccines, a copy of vaccine package inserts, vaccine ingredients, and a link to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) data.”
Zylstra expressed his appreciation of bringing awareness to vaccines but said he did not like how the resolution was laid out.
“I voted no on the Resolution on Vaccine Waivers because I believe this document could have been more balanced by presenting the overall benefits of vaccinations in addition to the information offered around waivers,” he wrote in a tweet.
Most speakers at public comment were in support of the resolution.
“This isn’t anti-vaxx, this is just pro-informed consent. Parents can make the best decisions for their families when they have all the information and that is all this resolution is about,” said Rachel Atwood of Georgetown Township.
A few commenters expressed concern about a proposal to cut Ottawa County Health Department funding over 60%. At a Monday Finance Administration Committee Special Work Session, Commissioner Joe Moss proposed to cut the department’s total general fund contribution from $6.4 million to a total of $2.5 million, according to a letter by Administrative Health Officer Adeline Hambley from the Ottawa County Health Department. She said County Administrator John Gibbs then asked her to propose a new budget with a nearly 50% reduction by the close of business Thursday.
“Proposed budget reductions of this size will significantly impair, and likely eliminate, various public health services and the Health Department’s ability to maintain public health and safety,” read the letter, in part. “It is ridiculous to expect that services in 2024 could be completed with a budget below 2009 funding levels.”
“We all get that Ottawa Impact is anti-vaccine. But you are doing a disservice to those who depend on the public health department’s services and are exercising their parental rights to have their child immunized,” said a Port Sheldon Township resident during public comment.
Republican Commissioner Jacob Bonnema, who cut ties with Ottawa Impact in March and was censured by his own party in June, supported the resolution. He pointed out that vaccine waiver information was readily available on both the state and Ottawa County websites.
“I just want the public to know this is not about obtaining a new right to be able to make this decision, this decision has been yours to make since the 1970s. I think the miscommunication has been how to get access to it,” Bonnema said.