Commissioner suggests waiver for vaccine

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

A Leavenworth County commissioner suggested Wednesday the county government ask people to sign a consent waiver before receiving a dose of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Commissioner Mike Stieben wants people receiving the vaccine to understand it was developed using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.

Commissioners ultimately discussed developing an information sheet about the vaccine instead of requiring a signed waiver.

So far, the Leavenworth County Health Department has administered only doses of a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The Health Department has not received doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Stieben raised the issue during a weekly meeting of the County Commission.

He noted that representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had issued a statement regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The statement was released Tuesday by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

They stated that “if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”

County Administrator Mark Loughry said he does not know if the Health Department would have the ability to request which vaccine it receives from the state.

“Right now, we’re lucky to get the number of vaccinations we receive,” Loughry said. “We don’t have any discretion as far as I know because that’s the only thing they’re sending to us.”

Loughry said he assumes county officials “would have the ability to say we don’t want it at all” and not accept a vaccine that is offered.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz said the “issue is whether or not it’s safe. The issue is whether or not it can save lives. The issue is whether or not it is available.”

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said providing an information sheet would be more appropriate than asking people to sign a waiver. He said an information sheet could be made available by the Health Department.

County Counselor David Van Parys expressed concern about requiring people to sign a waiver in order for them to receive a potentially life-saving vaccine.

“That’s kind of a situation of duress, and I really question how valid any such waiver might be,” he said.

Van Parys said the information sheet proposed by Culbertson can be done for little or no cost.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith said the county could implement the use of an information sheet.

Loughry said, right now, he views the matter as a solution looking for a problem because the Leavenworth County Health Department has not received doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But he said it is OK to be prepared.

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Approved a resolution to rezone a tract of land at 16421 McIntyre Road from a rural residential district that requires a minimum of 5-acre lots to a rural residential district that requires a minimum of 2.5-acre lots.

The vote was 4-1 with Chairman Mike Smith voting against the motion.

• Approved a special use permit for a solar farm on Tonganoxie Drive.

• Approved a special use permit for The Barn B&B, 18131 Eisenhower Road.

• Approved a special use permit for Cool Heat KC, 15890 Linwood Road.

One of the conditions of the special use permit requires the construction of a storage facility within one year.