WA - After rumors on social media claimed the Washington Board of Health would discuss creating internment camps for the unvaccinated and covid positive people and a vaccine mandate for students, over 75 hundred people requested to make comments at their meeting Wednesday. 

The WA Board of Health Chair Keith Grellner debunked these rumors before their meeting and also reminded people who joined today that internment camps were never going to be a topic of conversation.

"The board is not considering isolation or quarantine camps for people that test positive for covid or unvaccinated people," Grellner said. "That is a false rumor and we will not be discussing that today."

The rumors about internment camps stemmed from WAC 246-100-040. This legislation has been in the books since 2003. It talks about the isolation and quarantine process for certain communicable diseases and blood born pathogens.

However, the changes the board of health planned to discuss on WAC 246-100 were in regard to HIV and AIDs. Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1551 passed in June of 2020 and it updated some of the language in legalization. This meant the board was required to change stigmatizing language in WAC 246-100 in regards to HIV and AIDS.

Other changes proposed included removing repetitive language and creating clearer definitions.

A few HIV Advocates like Mark Garrett shared their thoughts on the changes to the administrative code. 

"This legislation and the proposed rule changes have taken over seven years to accomplish and I think we should all be proud of where we've come to," Garrett said. "We are 1000 percent better in language."

The board of health also clarified they were not enacting a covid-19 vaccine mandate for students today. They only listened to their Technical Advisory Group's brief on their work researching whether the covid vaccine should be added to the list of vaccines required for students (WAC 246-105).

TAG said they were still in the process of gathering materials they may need to consider in their decision.

Before an advisory group can even be created, two key things have to be met. The vaccine in question must be accessible and there must be a process to opt out. Once the group is created, they must consider nine legal criteria the vaccine must meet before it can be required. 

Those nine criteria are broken up into three categories; vaccine effectiveness, disease burden and implementation

TAG plans to have more meetings up until March 2022 to continue their research before they make a recommendation to the board. Then it is up to the board of health to determine whether they want to act on the group's recommendation. 

The Vice Chair for the WA Board of Health Thomas Pendergrass said they will consider whether the vaccine is fully approved before making their recommendation.

"It is correct that there is still an emergency use authorization for certain age groups, we definitely will be considering that, that will be a topic of conversation and will be a part of the recommendation," Pendergrass said. 

A petition was also brought to the board asking them to create a rule for them and future boards that no vaccine may be required if it only has emergency use authorization. The board denied the petition. 

Pendergrass recalled his childhood and a time where people were too scared to go out because of polio and says we don't know what may come in the future.

"I do not want to be in the setting where I am preventing some future event from occurring," Pendergrass said. "I've been on the board long enough to know that the board cannot commit to future rules on management of water systems, of shellfish or other things for future boards."

Other useful links:

Board of Health Meeting Materials

Administrative Procedure Act

TVW Stream - a recording of the meeting should be made available

WA Board of Health Facebook Page

RCW 28A.210.070