Borough to consider resolution against "vaccine segregation"

Sep 1, 2021

As of Wednesday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough had the fourth lowest vaccination rate among boroughs in Alaska.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor and several members of the assembly want to publicly denounce what they call “vaccine segregation” from the government.

Resolution 2021-067, set to be introduced at next week’s assembly meeting, says the borough encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But, the resolution says, the assembly and borough administration “Do not support government-mandated restrictions imposing mandated COVID-19 vaccine segregation in our community.”

The resolution is recommended by assembly members Jesse Bjorkman, Richard Derkevorkian and Bill Elam, as well as Mayor Charlie Pierce. It says the government should not require proof of vaccination status to access events, places of worship or businesses. It also says residents should be treated equally regardless of mask usage or vaccine status.

As a second-class borough, the Kenai Peninsula Borough does not have policing or health powers. And while some private businesses have required proof of vaccine as a condition for entry into buildings or events, the state of Alaska and local governments have not taken that step.

Bjorkman said he’s aware there’s no bite in the resolution. But he said he wants to let the public know where the borough stands.

"That’s definitely not a governmental power that I want to see used," he said. "It’s not a role of government that I want to see happen in our community or anywhere else.”

Bjorkman said he got the first draft of that resolution from Pierce on Aug. 20, the same week the mayor blasted the hospital for not offering non-FDA-approved coronavirus “treatments.”

Pierce was out of the office Wednesday. But he said on Facebook the resolution opposes
“a vaccine passport, vaccine mandates [and] mask mandates.”

The borough assembly already passed a resolution last November opposing a government mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Then and now, there is no statewide plan for such a mandate in Alaska. Some vaccine advocates said they worried the language of that resolution would contribute to vaccine hesitancy. 

Bjorkman said he isn’t worried the language of this resolution would discourage residents from getting the vaccine.

“I believe governmental action in any regard due to vaccines is going to be counterproductive in having folks trust any vaccine or trust the process about how vaccine rollout’s happening," he said.

Yesterday, the Alaska House of Representatives defeated a measure that would have penalized organizations that required vaccines.

This spring, several Kenai Peninsula representatives signed onto a bill that would have barred businesses and public entities from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment.

Neither action passed.