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Immunization bill fails, more action to follow

Immunization bill fails, more action to follow

Wayne Hoffman
February 24, 2017
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February 24, 2017

Kudos to the 44 members of the Idaho House of Representatives who voted against turning the state’s childhood immunization registry (a policy mistake in its own right) into a registry of almost every vaccine given to every child and every adult in Idaho. House Bill 91, proposed by the Idaho Medical Association, had just 26 supporters. I’ll list them momentarily, so you can be sure to let them know your thoughts on this extraordinary attempt to expand government, properly described by opposing legislators as a power grab.

Allow me to provide some background. In 1999, the Legislature passed a bill that created a “voluntary” immunization registry. This was part of what then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne described as “the Generation of the Child” but others viewed as the “Generation of Big Government,” and they were right.

The stated purpose of the immunization registry is to track immunizations for children. Existing law says the registry is designed to help with childhood diseases and “make immunizations readily available to every Idaho citizen that desires to have their child immunized.” Among other things, the registry is supposed to remind parents about upcoming recommended immunizations. Since its creation, there have been multiple attempts to make the “voluntary” registry mandatory, often by simply striking out the word “voluntary” in the statute.

The just-defeated House Bill 91 represents the latest attempt to add people to the registry. If enacted, HB 91 would have required medical providers to report every immunization, except for flu shots, to the registry for persons aged 19 and older. Medical practitioners who failed to comply would have faced disciplinary actions from their occupational licensing boards.

Fortunately, House members objected vehemently to HB 91. They decried that the bill’s passage would result in the loss of privacy. They highlighted the potential threats from database hacks and the impacts on public health and safety. Further, House opponents warned of the eventual road toward mandatory vaccinations, as experienced in other states.

Legislators who voted to require the names of adults and their immunization records in a state database were GOP Reps. Paul Amador, Neil Anderson, Scott Bedke, Maxine Bell, Marc Gibbs, Brandon Hixon, Wendy Horman, Clark Kauffman, Tom Loertscher, Luke Malek, Steve Miller, Kelley Packer, Christy Perry, Dell Raybould, Eric Redman, Julie VanOrden and Fred Wood. Also supporting HB 91 were Democratic Reps. Sue Chew, Mat Erpelding, Phylis King, Hy Kloc, John McCrostie, Ilana Rubel, Elaine Smith, Sally Toone, and Melissa Wintrow.

Things are less rosy on the Senate side of the Capitol, where Big Government immunization policies have been defended and protected. Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Lee Heider has vacillated about holding a hearing on a bill that would let parents avoid using the state’s invasive form to decline to vaccinate their children. The Department of Health and Welfare’s form asks probing questions about parent’s religious and philosophical beliefs. The measure, Senate Bill 1050, was scheduled for a hearing on Thursday, yesterday, but then summarily and without explanation it was dropped from the committee’s calendar. SB 1050 deserves a hearing.

Another bill, Senate Bill 1081, would continue the state’s involuntary taxes on insurance companies in order to pay for a childhood immunization program. That program was started in 2010 and was supposed to have expired twice, but it survived each time. This latest extension, allowed for in Senate Bill 1081, passed the Senate several days ago with just six no votes, and awaits action in the House. Though this legislation sailed through the Senate with little opposition, House members appear willing to flex some muscle on the immunization issue, and the dramatic vote on House Bill 91 bodes well for those who want to curtail the state’s role in making healthcare decisions for Idaho’s parents and children.

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