After a Littleton Public Schools student filmed himself misleading health staff to see if he could get a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic using space in an LPS high school, the boy's father said the intention of the video was to shut down the vaccine site and the prospect of any others in the future.
Gregg McGough, the father of 15-year-old Owen McGough, had sent a video filmed by his son to a right-wing Twitter account, “Libs of Tik Tok,” that showed his son, who in the video used a fake name, handing staff a fake parental consent form at a vaccine clinic at Heritage High School on Jan. 21.
The video joins another that was filmed by 16-year-old Alexander Tallentire, who is homeschooled according to an article by the Arapahoe Pinnacle. Tallentire lied about his age in order to be given a vaccine without parental consent. Neither McGough or Tallentire ended up being vaccinated, the videos show. But their ability to bypass rules preventing minors from getting vaccinated without proper consent caused backlash for the school district, whose superintendent said it will stop hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinics.
“Schools are where education is supposed to be happening. Schools are not about public health environments, which is what they’ve become,” McGough said in an interview.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in a previous statement, said it believed the videos were designed to bring down vaccination efforts at schools, which they said were “an important way the state ensures access to COVID-19 vaccines in places that are convenient. "
The clinic on Jan. 21 was run by Tri-County Health and staffed by employees from Jogan Health, a contractor with CDPHE.
Becky O'Guin, spokesperson for Tri-County Health, defended the vaccine staff and said the videos pose a threat to vaccine accessibility for those who want it.
“Our judgment is that state protocols appear to have been followed in assessing appropriateness of offering vaccination,” she said in an email, adding the videos are “hurting those in our community who want and need easier access to the vaccine for themselves and their children and will now have to find another vaccine location.”
McGough said there are “plenty of places where people can get a vaccine” beside a school. While he would not weigh in with his own personal thoughts on the vaccine, he said he felt the vaccine is a political issue that had no place on school property. He added that he felt having clinics on school grounds put pressure on students to be vaccinated.
In a statement, LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert said the district did not share information about the clinic directly with students but that since that particular clinic was held at Heritage, its students may have known about it. The district did send information about the clinic in a parent and community newsletter on Jan. 20 and posted information on the district website, Ewert said.
And in both videos, when the McGough and Tallentire say they have changed their minds about getting a vaccine, the nurse is heard saying their feelings are "completely valid" and that it is "fine" for them to leave.
Still, McGough said he feels the videos prove that the district and health agencies have overstepped boundaries, even with the misleading information students gave to clinic staff.
The fake note that McGough's son Owen handed Jogan Health staff was from a city document relating to COVID-19 policies for Oklahoma City. McGough said the staff’s inability to tell that it was fake showed they were not following their own guidelines for who could get vaccinated and compared it to a minor being able to buy alcohol with a consent form.
He also said Colorado’s health department created a “loophole” when it issued guidelines preventing vaccine providers from asking for ID in a bid to make the vaccine more accessible. While staff at Heritage’s clinic had to take the other student’s word when he lied about his age, since they could not ask for ID, McGough said the ID waiver should not be in place.
“(CDPHE) took away the ability for us to determine how old somebody is that opened up a giant loophole to put children in harm’s way,” McGough said.
According to Karen Tallentire, the parent of Alexander Tallentire, a third person allegedly also tried to get approved for a vaccine at the clinic without parental consent but was denied after saying they were under the age of 18.
In a Jan. 20 email, McGough had been told by Ewert that students had to be accompanied by a parent to get a vaccine, even if they had consent. But on the morning of Jan. 25, Ewert, in his statement to parents, said Tri-County Health told the district that the state does not require those under 18 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian when receiving a COVID vaccine, as long as consent has been shared with staff prior to the appointment.
"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," Ewert said in his statement, and laid blame on the clinic staff who he said did not follow proper protocol “potentially putting children at risk.”
The videos have risen to national attention, with Gregg and Owen McGough appearing on a “Fox and Friends” segment of Fox News on Jan. 27.
The two also spoke during a public comment period before the LPS district's school board meeting on Jan. 27, during which Owen McGough said he had planned the videos with the other student.
“I am proud to have done my part to get the vaccine clinics out of schools,” he said.
This story has been updated with more information from the Jan. 27 school board meeting.