Over the objections of Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames), the Iowa-AAP, and 20 other health and education groups, Reps. Steven Holt (R-Denison) and Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville) advanced legislation (HF 7) weakening Iowa’s compulsory immunization law — described in an earlier post. The House Human Resources Committee will now consider whether to add to medical and religious exemptions from compulsory immunization a new one because of “personal conviction.”
While taking no position on the legislation, the Iowa Department of Public Health’s liaison Deborah Thompson cited several concerns. In a three-page statement, she warned the new provision would lead to fewer immunizations, putting children at greater risk of infection – particularly those unable to be immunized because of age and medical conditions. Citing the experience in other states, she warned of a likely increase in infection rates and the resultant costs.
Dr. Nathan Boonstra, an infectious disease expert at Blank Hospital and a board member of the Iowa-AAP (pictured), addressed the committee — warning that withholding vaccines from a child raises the risk of infection not just for that child, but also for many others, particularly in a school setting. Adding unvaccinated children increases the risk of disease for others around them dramatically — particularly for children with special medical needs like congenital heart disease or severe asthma. He further maintained scientific research has shown vaccines as safe and effective.
Rep. Wessel-Kroeschell agreed with the two experts – noting the adverse effects on children and communities from the bill’s exemption.
Without responding to the arguments against the bill, Reps. Holt and Salmon insisted it was necessary as a matter of “freedom” because no one should be forced by government to put something into their body.
The Iowa-AAP has registered against the legislation and its president Dr. Marguerite Oetting has developed a statement on the importance of immunizations. Iowa-AAP will also be working with a broad coalition of organizations to persuade the House Human Resources Committee to oppose the bill.
Update: This legislation stalled in the House Human Resources Committee (more).