Subject: Urgent HB221
Date: Wed Mar 02 14:06:27 MST 2016
I am writing to ask you if you’ll support the 6th substitute of HB221 as outlined by Representative Moss. For months, Representative Moss has closely worked with public health professionals and healthcare providers to draft HB221. Consequently, all local boards of health, the state health department, and all major professional healthcare organizations in Utah publically support the 6th substitute of HB221. None of these institutions or organizations, however, support Representative Anderegg’s substitution.
These healthcare experts are on the front-lines, so-to-speak, of dealing with the disturbing trend of immunization exemptions in Utah. They regularly address parental questions regarding immunizations, care for those infected with these potentially deadly diseases, and control disease outbreaks in the area. Over the past 10 years, there has been a disturbing and upward trend in immunization exemptions in Utah. While Utah healthcare experts have desperately tried to control the rise in immunization exemptions with informal and unstandardized education has not been effective enough. Consequently, herd immunity in Utah is on the brink of compromise. The danger of compromised herd immunity in our state has already put Utahans at risk with two measles outbreaks and countless whooping cough outbreaks in the last five years alone.
The opposition to HB221 insist the bill “increases parental burden,” especially with rurally-located Utahans who would need to, as Representative Anderegg states, “travel two hours to get to the local health department to file an immunization exemption.” I contacted the state department of health yesterday and this simply isn’t the case for almost all of rural Utah. In fact, really only 1% (or 2,900) of Utahans would have legitimate travel concerns. Because about 95% of kindergarteners in Utah are immunized, that means that realistically only about 145 Utahans may have to travel about 60 minutes to get to the local health department. With HB221 (as written by Representative Moss), exempting parents would only need to make this trip one time. Representative Anderegg’s rationale for filing a substitute for HB221 is, therefore, flawed.
I’m terribly disappointed that some Representatives will not support HB221 because they believe it is too burdensome for exempting parents. I just don’t understand this logic. HB221 is about protecting unimmunized children. There are about 87,000 children in Utah who are unimmunized and at risk for contracting dangerous and immunization-preventable diseases. I am asking you, as an elected leader, to “speak” on behalf of these vulnerable children. Please help protect them. It is simply unconscionable that this bill has become a matter of convenience for some parents when really it’s a matter of life and death to children, like mine, who have a compromised immune system.
Research shows that formal and standardized immunization education has effectively decreased exemption rates in other states. I believe elected leaders have an ethical responsibility to protect vulnerable children (such as those with leukemia) from immunization-preventable diseases with legislation, legislation that formalizes and standardizes immunization education. For those reasons, I respectfully ask you to support the 6th substitute of HB221.
1061 S Vista Ridge Drive
Santaquin, UT 84655
(The opinions expressed in this correspondence are my own, and not necessarily those of Brigham Young University)