HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The vaccination debate unexpectedly came to the Hays CISD Facebook page on Monday following two posts about a planned “emergency response and mass vaccination drill” at Hays High School.
The bioterrorism drill, from 7:30 a.m. until noon on Tuesday, took place in the high school parking lot, involving area first responders and volunteers. Hays County says they hold this kind of drill to practice the emergency distribution of relief items, vaccinations and medication and health assessments.
“This particular scenario was based upon an anthrax release in the county,” said Hays County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Mike Jones. “We take that as a terrorist event or bioterrorism.”
Both the county and Hays CISD made clear that students were not part of the drill.
Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said an initial Facebook post about the drill on Monday got picked up by a large number of people from around the U.S. and Canada, who used it to debate whether or not vaccines are good for you.
“There is certainly a place for the debate, but that wasn’t the point of our post to you,” a follow-up Facebook message said. “The discussion got so far off topic that it was confusing to people who came late to the comment string.”
“We want emergency medicine, we want to be able to get water and food when we need it if there is a crisis, but a mass vaccination drill — it’s not real!” said Donna Voetee who saw the HCISD Facebook post and spoke out. “A mass vaccination drill promoted by our government, its tyranny and it’s terrifying to me that this would happen.”
To see what would actually happen at the drill, Voetee traveled from Lockhart to Kyle to watch.
“I think they downplayed it, we know that. It was promoted as a mass vaccination drill and they know that. So, cyber warriors, we prevailed and we took it down,” said Voetee.
The district said the initial post was removed as part of their continuing effort to be transparent and to provide accurate information on their Facebook page. In particular, the district wanted to highlight that campus operations would not be affected and no actual vaccines or medicine would be used in the drill. Instead, volunteers received candy.
The second, follow-up Facebook post eventually came down after inappropriate language and GIFs were used that weren’t automatically caught by the page’s filters. Savoy says he wasn’t able to monitor the page overnight.
Either way, he says the Facebook post was secondary to an email sent out to parents earlier in the day to let them know about the drill.
Hays County officials say the drill was never intended to focus on vaccines, only the county’s ability to distribute supplies in an emergency.
“The government is not here to take care of them; we’re here to provide some resources and get them some direction,” said Jones.
During the Memorial Day Flood, Hays County used this process to distribute clean up kits. During the Bastrop Fires, it worked to hand out bottled water.
“You can’t always prevent a flood, but you can prepare to approach that flood with better processes and better preparations,” said Jones.
We asked the Hays County Office of Emergency Management what the threshold is for triggering this type of response. They tell KXAN there isn’t a required number of evacuations or people that have to be affected for supplies to be distributed.
It depends on the subject of the emergency like whether it’s a flood, fire or health problem. It also depends on the community’s needs like if they need water or vaccinations.