Updated: Mar 29, 2020
SB 56 Immunization Tracking Bill passed in the Senate Healthcare Committee today with a 10-1 vote. Alabama Department of Public Health's Chief Health Officer Scott Harris attended to provide more insight into the bill's intent and answer any questions.
Senator Jack Williams (R) mentioned he had received comments from constituents voicing concerns on the issues that could arise from a mandated registry violating their rights under HIPAA and none urging him to vote yes. He ultimately voted in opposition, making him the lone "no" vote today. Please take time to thank him for listening to the voice of the people and respecting his duty as a public official! Dr. Harris clarified that public agencies are allowed to collect data of this nature with no violation of HIPAA. When I spoke to him earlier this week asking if patients and guardians would be fully informed and given an option to decline participation in the registry, this was his response:
"The bill requires providers to use ImmPRINT, which is the current electronic immunization registry for Alabama, and will not create a new or different registry. There is no additional data or information that will be required by this bill that is not already entered into the registry. Almost all pediatricians currently use ImmPRINT and it is mostly the chain pharmacies or some providers for adults who have been identified as not submitting shot records. If this bill is enacted into law, it would only require that these few outliers participate in ImmPRINT in the same way as almost all other Alabama providers."
What he fails to realize is that there are doctors and pediatricians in Alabama that do understand the importance of informed consent and regularly respect their patients' wishes to not participate in this tracking system. Once this bill goes into effect, not only will we not have that option to decline participation but our doctors won't have the option to protect their patients' wishes either.
He then continues to say:
"ADPH believes that HB 103 can help to achieve two goals: first, it will ensure that children and adults are not inadvertently given vaccines that they have already received. ADPH has received a number of reports of persons (especially the elderly) who have received immunizations while at a pharmacy but cannot recall this information when they next visit their own medical provider. Without a complete electronic registry, Alabama's providers may administer vaccines that have previously been given already."
Perhaps instead of creating a mandatory system that violates medical privacy, there should be a bill written mandating that all vaccines may ONLY be administered by an individual's primary care physician rather than receiving them at a pharmacy located in a grocery store. This way, not only would all vaccinations for that individual be on record with that physician, they would also be in possession of the patient's medical history and family history as well. This would prevent any adverse reactions from going unnoticed and undocumented since pharmacists are not trained to recognize reactions or to provide medical care if one were to occur. It would also cut down on vaccines being given to individuals that have clear contraindications.
"Secondly, a more robust electronic registry helps Public Health to make well-informed decisions about Alabama's readiness and/or its susceptibility to outbreaks. For example, when the U.S. experienced last year its largest measles outbreak in recent history, ADPH really had no idea about vulnerability of our state, because there are no records that show how completely our population has been immunized."
Reading between the lines we know that this means that yes, in the case of an "outbreak" (which only requires 3 cases) they would know who is vaccinated but their real goal is to know who exactly who is NOT vaccinated. The "vulnerability" mentioned is all those individuals that have not received the vaccine at all, the full series of that vaccine, or even a booster of that vaccine. Since we know the CDC is rolling out an Adult Immunization Schedule, it's likely no coincidence that ADPH wants to track vaccination records more closely and extend this to include adult vaccine history as well. Those vaccination reminders you get in the mail for your child? There will likely be similar notifications sent out to all ages as a reminder to get vaccinated or get a booster.
Dr. Harris also stated at the hearing today that not vaccinating - as well as obtaining an exemption - opts you out of the system. This simply isn't true. Since the health department issues religious exemptions, your information would still be a part of this database, just minus the vaccine information itself because you didn't receive it. This lack of a vaccination record would be a clear indication of the individual not being vaccinated. We know from watching other states go through the process of losing exemptions how this kind of tracking system can be utilized in enforcing vaccine mandates by targeting those that do not have proof of vaccinations.
Now that the bill has passed out of the Senate Healthcare Committee it will be added to the agenda to be read before the full Senate.
It's not too late! There is still time to voice your concerns over today's decision.
Call to Action:
Now is the time to call on your local state Senator and urge them to consider how this legislation will affect you. Find your legislator here.
It's so important to build relationships with our legislators. They need to be reminded on a regular basis who it is they work for... We The People!
Companion Bill HB 103 hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, February 19th at 10:30 am in Room 206. Please do your best to attend! ACVR has submitted a request for public comment so that all those who wish to testify at the hearing can do so. We'll update you when that information becomes available. Public Comment WILL be allowed at the hearing! Keep an eye out for instructions on registering to speak.
Until then, continue to contact House Health Committee members. Write, call, e-mail, Facebook message, tweet, visit in person in Montgomery, contact however you can!
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