A GOP lawmaker asked if the COVID-19 vaccine had tracking devices, insisting the question was to debunk 'wild charges' from his constituents

By Lauren Frias

A GOP lawmaker in Southern California asked a top county health official if COVID-19 vaccines had "tracking devices," insisting the question was intended to debunk "wild claims" from his constituents.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner asked the question to Clayton Chau, the county's health-care agency director, during a Board of Supervisors meeting about "vaccine passports" on Tuesday.

"In the vaccine, we heard about an injection of the tracking device," Wagner said. "Is that being done anywhere in Orange County?"

Chau could be heard laughing on a livestream broadcast of the meeting, later apologizing and saying he had to "compose" himself.

"There's not a vaccine with a tracking device embedded in it that I know of exists in the world. Period," Chau said.

Wagner also asked Chau if digital vaccine records would be used for "tracking folks," to which Chau responded with a definitive "nope."

A video capturing the moment went viral on Twitter, garnering more than a million views and prompting critics to accuse Wagner of spreading misinformation about the vaccine.

Epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding echoed Chau's message the COVID-19 vaccine does not harbor a tracking device.

"Stop peddling conspiracies. You know you asked it in a conspiracy-deranged manner," Feigl-Ding tweeted Wednesday. "I can't believe the 3 million people of Orange County, CA somehow elected you."

Wagner, who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in early April, told The Washington Post in an email that he asked about tracking devices conspiracy to "debunk" them.

"I knew they are not true but wanted the public to hear that directly from Dr. Chau," Wagner told The Post." I got exactly the response from Dr. Chau I expected, with the same laugh at the absurdity of the charges that they deserve."

Wagner told The Post he and Chau are in "regular communication about these public myths, and when they persist for months on end, we work together to dispel them."

"I am in no way concerned about trackers in the vaccine and Dr. Chau knows this, as he administered my vaccine," Wagner said. "I continue to encourage everybody to get vaccinated if they can."

Though Wagner has remained insistent on debunking pandemic myths, he previously found himself at the center of controversy while serving on an 11-person panel appointed by the Orange County Board of Education that issued guidance against implementing health safety protocols in Orange County schools.

Last July, the panel suggested it "may be harmful" to issue health safety precautions at schools, such as having the children socially distance and wear masks. The panel recommended doing so would "not only be difficult, if not impossible to implement, but not based on science."

During a July 15 interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar, Wagner said "those are not my recommendations" and maintained his support for mask-wearing to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Wagner distanced himself from the panel's guidance, saying he "never said" mask wearing and social distancing may be harmful and not recommended.

"All I did was give a couple of minutes really of discussion," he told CNN at the time.