COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — In a unanimous decision, the Kootenai County commissioners announced Jessica Jameson, an interventional pain physician, for a seat on the Panhandle Health District Board of Health, as reported by our news partners at the Coeur d'Alene Press.
After receiving a record 18 applications and conducting six interviews, the commissioners nominated Jameson to replace former board member Jai Nelson.
Panhandle Health will create a ballot with Jameson's nomination and send it to the other five county commissioners within the district, county communication manager Nancy Jones said. Those ballots will be returned to PHD, and likely opened at the May 27 meeting.
While the other counties could reject Jameson's nomination, Jones said, she anticipates it will pass. If it were to fail, she said the commissioners would theoretically restart the process.
Jameson, the founder and owner of the Axis Spine Center in Post Falls, has a long history in the North Idaho medical scene. Currently acting as an assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine for the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, Jameson was also a medical director and physician at Northwest Pain Management and a United States Air Force flight surgeon.
"I think she was extremely well qualified. She presented herself well, and she's extremely articulated," Commissioner Bill Brooks said. "She's not shy about expressing her opinion. There was no waffling about some of the hard questions and regarding the mask mandate."
During her interview with the commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, Jameson said that justification for mask mandates and vaccinations has become a "bit of a gray area" and contradicts her value in civil liberty.
"I actually do not agree with a mask mandate, and that is not a popular opinion, I would say, in my profession," she said. "I think that protecting the health of my neighbor and my community is important, but I have concerns when we start to mandate things that potentially don't have the quality of evidence required to know that it is something that's going to be beneficial."
Regarding immunizations, Jameson felt that the COVID-19 vaccines currently on the market have not been thoroughly tested and approved, nor have a substantial enough track record to be made mandatory.
"We don't mandate the influenza vaccine. We know that influenza mutates. We now know that the COVID and SARS virus mutates, so I think vaccine mandates for diseases like that is a very slippery slope," she said.
However, Jameson expressed that vaccines for diseases like Polio — and immunization required for children to receive before attending school — are justified. Due to the disease's rarity and the reputable evidence that supports the Polio vaccine as safe and effective, she doesn't oppose its requirement.
The commissioners' support for Jameson came in part from her experience in the medical field and their confidence that she would be a positive addition to the Panhandle Health District board.
"She was well rounded. She had not only a good medical background, but I felt that she had an understanding of what else Panhandle Health does," Commissioner Leslie Duncan said.
Commissioner Chris Fillios agreed with Brooks and Duncan but was also glad to fill Nelson's position with another female professional.
"I thought her background was diverse, and I also believe that within a woman leaving, there should be a woman replacing because the other members are all male," Fillios said. "Women outnumber men in Kootenai County, so I thought it was the right thing to do."
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