After an uproar of 215 public commenters speaking during a recent Orange County Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, county officials are reiterating to the public that the upcoming vaccine verification program is voluntary.
“I really respect people’s freedom to voice whatever their opinion is, whether it be anti-mask, or anti-vaccine, because that’s the beauty of our country … you have a freedom of choice,” Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) director Dr. Clayton Chau told The Epoch Times April 16. “That’s the piece that I was trying to tell people; that I’m not mandating anybody to get the vaccine.”
Chau said that despite explaining himself and addressing misstatements about him during the BOS meeting, people continued to accuse him of wanting to force vaccines on residents.
“People want to interpret it whichever way people want to interpret,” he said. “We, as a health care agency, provide the vaccine, a treatment. We have an obligation to give people verification that they have received the vaccine through us. That’s a legal mandate. That’s it. Just like if you get a vaccine from Kaiser, you have every right to go to Kaiser and [demand] proof, and they are obligated to give you that proof; this is no different. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s as clear as a whistle.”
Orange County’s Othena app will be used to store vaccine records for those who wish to use the platform for that purpose. Developed by Composite Apps, it will cost $3.8 million to extend the application’s contract to 2023. The platform has already cost $1.2 million, and some residents who spoke at the board meeting were critical that the money was an overuse of taxpayer funds.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee said the funding will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and won’t cost the county anything.
“It’s something that we need to do because we’re required by law to provide people with a record of their vaccination,” Chaffee told The Epoch Times. “This is to facilitate that process.”
Asked why much of the funding is being spent now when the bulk of vaccinations will be done by July, Chaffee noted that it’s a matter of being prepared for the future. He added that the app is not just about setting up vaccination appointments, but making it easy for people to access their vaccination records on the fly.
Chau said the app will contain an analytic component as well to interface with the state’s MyTurn vaccination requirements.
People who don’t want to get vaccinated but wish to get tested to access venues that require it might still find use in the app. It will allow users to view their test results from OC Labs.
The OCH will continue to put out messaging for the public, Chau said.