Health and Welfare gets an earful on immunization guidelines

The Department of Health and Welfare is in the midst of rules review, and immunization requirements are a hot topic.

Twenty-three people testified at an agency public hearing in Meridian Thursday afternoon, and 22 of them commented on immunizations, writes Melissa Davlin of Idaho Public Television’s “Idaho Reports.”

Davlin’s headcount: 14 speakers opposed state-mandated vaccines, while eight urged the state to stay the course on immunization rules.

Health and Welfare is also getting emails on the issue, but in this case, the headcount is quite different. While 28 Idahoans argued against immunization rules, 62 Idahoans urged Health and Welfare to keep the rules in place, Nathan Brown of the Idaho Falls Post Register reported.

Idaho’s vaccination rules aren’t a true mandate. The state recommends a battery of vaccines, but parents can opt their kids out of immunizations for any reason, simply by turning in a written note.

Idaho’s immunization opt-out rates are historically among the highest in the nation. Last school year, the opt-out rate rose to 7.7 percent, with most parents citing religious or personal concerns.

Idaho’s immunization rate dropped to 86.5 percent. For other students, immunization records were missing or incomplete, or schools admitted children on a conditional basis.

Health and Welfare is holding hearings across the state, through next week. Here’s the remaining schedule:

  • Idaho Falls: 1 to 4 p.m., Aug. 23, Region VII office, 150 Shoup Ave.
  • Coeur d’Alene: 9 a.m. to noon, Aug. 26, Region I office, 1120 Ironwood Drive.
  • Lewiston: 10 a.m. to noon, Aug. 27, state office buiding, 1118 F St.
  • Grangeville: 3 to 4:30 p.m., Aug. 27, Grangeville Senior Center, 108 Truck Route Road.
  • Twin Falls: 1 to 4 p.m., Aug. 28, Region V office 601 Poleline Road.

State agencies are reviewing a host of rules — on everything from immunizations to academic standards — after the 2019 Legislature failed to pass a bill to ratify some 8,200 pages of regulations.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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