Idaho House Gives A Thumbs Up To Vaccine Opt-Out Bill

Feb 25, 2019

Public and private schools, as well as daycares across Idaho, may soon have to let parents know they can opt their kids out of getting vaccinated.

Under the bill from Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird), these schools and daycares would need to give parents a copy of the state law outlining the exemption process before they enroll.

Idaho allows parents to avoid vaccinating their kids for personal or religious beliefs, as well as for medical reasons.

Giddings says she’s heard from parents who say their schools simply tell them about their vaccine requirements – but not that they could opt out entirely.

“We have a lot of frustrated parents throughout the state who feel like they’ve just maybe been misinformed about it,” she says, calling it a “transparency bill.”

The bill passed on a largely party-line vote 52-17.

Rob Winslow, Executive Director for the Idaho Association of School Administrators, says his organization has safety concerns regarding the bill, namely "...that this increases the risk that all students could be exposed to dangerous diseases unnecessarily."

The move comes amid a measles outbreak in Vancouver, Washington. Health officials there have confirmed 65 cases – mostly in unvaccinated children.

In response, lawmakers in Washington have introduced a bill to ban personal or religious exemptions for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Oregon legislators are considering completely removing the personal and religious exemptions for all vaccines.

A set of bills up for debate in Arizona, however, would carve out further exemptions and make it easier for parents to avoid immunizing their children.

Opt out rates for vaccinations in Idaho have stayed fairly consistent, according to an analysis by Idaho Education News. The report found 87 percent of students are immunized.

County by county, those rates fluctuate significantly. The vaccine exemption rate was typically higher in North Idaho – 23.8 percent in 2017-2018 in Bonner County – while Eastern Idaho counties logged the among the lowest opt-out rates in the state, according to Idaho Education News.

Giddings’ bill now heads to the Idaho Senate.

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