Heritage High School, a public school in Littleton, Colorado, hosted a vaccination clinic last week that was advertised as open to the community. The school administration was asked by parents ahead of time if minors who come to the clinic would be vaccinated without parental consent.
Superintendent Brian Ewert had assured parents that Tri-County Health Department (TCHD), the organization running the clinic, would require parents be present for the vaccination of minors, but TCHD did not follow the guidelines explained by Ewert.
"We incorrectly assumed that all vaccination clinics in Colorado followed the same vaccination protocol as Children’s Hospital, requiring a parent to be present during a vaccination," a Tuesday statement from the school administration said.
Littleton Public Schools (LPS) was previously warned about such a discrepancy.
"As specifically stated in the flyer, an ID is not required," a parent of one of the students told Ewert and the school board in an email on Jan. 20., the day before the clinic opened. "If ID is not required then you can't require anyone to prove their age. This clinic is being run by TCHD and not the school. TCHD does not have to abide by your expectations."
"He wrote me back a statement that was very clear," the parent told Fox News. "Students can't do this without a parent being present."
"Students under the age of 18 cannot get a vaccination without parent permission and they must have a parent or legal guardian present with them to sign consent. This is required for all doses," Ewert replied to the parent's Jan. 20 email.
The two teenagers at the center of the scandal asked their parents if they would be allowed to attend the clinic and attempt to be approved on their own, the family told Fox News. The minors were 15 and 16 years-old respectively. Neither teenager attends Heritage High School, but are located within the district.
On Jan. 21, both teenagers were able to successfully acquire a vaccination at the TCHD clinic without parental consent or their guardians present. The teens used false identities and one offered a forged consent note to trick the clinic's staff, who did not question the students. Once approved, both children turned down the vaccine. One student excused himself by telling the nurse that he was afraid of needles, the child's parent told Fox News.
"He presented with a consent form that was obviously fictitious," a parent of the child told Fox News.
All names have been withheld to protect the identities of those involved.
LPS has been quick to distance themselves the clinic, pointing out that "Heritage High School was not associated with the administration of this event in any way."
"Please know that LPS does not condone the administration of COVID vaccines or any other vaccines to minors without a parent present to provide consent," the statement, sent Tuesday to parents in the district, read.
"The school district is trying to shift the blame even though I fully warned both the superintendent and school board prior to the vaccine clinic," the parent told Fox News after the statement was released.
Despite the parents' warnings prior to the clinic, the school has pointed the finger at TCHD, and thanked the community for exposing the gap in regulations.
"We thank our LPS parents for bringing this concerning issue to our attention. Nothing is more important than the safety of our students and community members. We will provide additional information to you as we learn more about the next steps Tri-County Health and the CDPHE will take," the statement said.
Littleton Public Schools apologized for the oversight, saying that they were unaware of TCHD's protocol.
"We incorrectly assumed that all vaccination clinics in Colorado followed the same vaccination protocol as Children’s Hospital, requiring a parent to be present during a vaccination. We were informed this morning by Tri-County Health that the State of Colorado does not require minors to be accompanied by a parent or guardian as long as parental consent is collected and shared prior to the appointment through the vaccine provider’s online scheduling system," the school district said in its apology.
"The vaccination provider may also obtain consent by phone and document it in the patient’s record. Regardless, we don't believe Jogan Health employees followed the proper protocol in obtaining parent permission, potentially putting children at risk," the statement added.
The omicron variant of the coronavirus is not the most prevalent virus spreading in Colorado schools, according to a medical official in the state.
Dr. Reginald Washington, the chief medical officer at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, says the Respiratory Syncytial Virus is spreading more among children in and around the Denver area than the coronavirus.
"RSV is very contagious and very prevalent in the school system as well as throughout daycare centers and in homes. So RSV is certainly the winner," Washington said, according to KDVR.