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COVID-19 vaccine forms lead to confusion for ACPS parents

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

BY AMBER THIBODAUX

In preparation for COVID-19 vaccination clinics to be held at Alachua County elementary and middle schools beginning December 7, the Alachua County School Board sent out Pfizer consent forms this week with a cover page describing the process for participating in the vaccination program. The cover page includes this instruction at the bottom: “Please, complete the consent form even if you do not want your child to participate!” but many parents noticed that a signature on the consent form gives consent for the administration of the vaccine.

Not all parents received the forms because staff at some schools noticed this and held onto the forms while awaiting clarification. The lack of an opt-out box led to a number of social media posts from parents who were concerned that their child might be accidentally injected with the vaccine if they returned the form.

The cover page can be viewed here.

Carmen Anderson, whose daughter attends Norton Elementary, received the consent form on Monday and said she’s keeping her daughter home on the day of the clinic as a precaution. “I do not plan to send my daughter to school on the day that they will be holding the vaccination clinic,” Anderson said. “I feel very strong about having a choice on whether or not to vaccinate my children.” Anderson added that she sent the form back with the words, “Absolutely not! There will be a lawsuit if you even think about it” written in bold on the first page.

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Tiffany Burdette, a mother of two children who attend Talbot Elementary, was also confused by the form. Burdette said that once she received the form, she immediately emailed the school principal and school board, stating that she was concerned about the omission of an opt-out checkbox. “I received the COVID-19 Vaccination Opportunity forms today from our children’s school, Talbot Elementary, and I am very concerned. I do not see anywhere on this form where a parent can opt out of the vaccine,” Burdette wrote. She was equally troubled by the lack of transparency regarding clinic dates for each school. “There is also no date on the form as to when the clinic will take place. There is no instruction on the form to where the parents can go online to view the vaccine clinic calendar,” Burdette added in a separate email to the Alachua Chronicle. 

When asked about the consent forms, Jackie Johnson, Director of Communications for Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS), said in an emailed response, “Families who don’t want their child to get the shot should just not submit the form.” She added, “apparently that instruction was on the hard copy letter from the Health Department. That was not included in the information we sent directly to parents a couple of weeks ago or on our website.” However, this is disputed by the fact that many parents did receive the version with the ACPS logo on top and the instruction to complete the form “even if you do not want your child to participate.”

After Johnson was asked for clarification by the Alachua Chronicle, ACPS quickly updated its Twitter account with a message regarding the vaccination clinics: “The deadline for families to submit consent forms has been extended. Forms will be accepted up to the day of each school’s clinic. Families who do NOT want their child vaccinated should NOT submit a consent form.” Similar language was also sent out via email to all parents of Alachua County students. 

Dates for vaccination clinics at each school can be found here.

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