A bill to start “a pathway to immunization” passed the Senate on Monday, Mar. 7.
HB308 “requires the Department of Health to create an online education module regarding certain preventable diseases and create a new vaccination exemption form.”
Utah recently made headlines with a rise in measles outbreaks among young children. BYU nursing professor Lacey Eden worked with Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, to create the new bill to combat the rise in outbreaks.
Eden, a certified family nurse practitioner, said part of the problem is the immunization system.
“Currently in Utah, it is easier to get an immunization exemption for your child than it is to have them immunized,” Eden said. “This puts the entire community at risk.”
But some parents are fighting for their right to not immunize their children, which has caused a heated debate and controversy around the issue.
Eden said one of HB308’s aims is to find a safe solution for both parents who choose to immunize their children and parents who choose not to.
Parents who choose to not immunize their children would be required to complete an online education program that educates them on how to best protect their child and others during an outbreak.
“It teaches them things like their child has to be home from school for 21 days when there’s a measles outbreak,” said Coulette Green, a BYU student and member of Eden’s research team. “Many parents are unaware of this and are upset when they find out their child can’t attend school.”
The immunization bill faced backlash from anti-vaccination groups and was rejected in last year’s legislative session.
Eden said people misunderstood the bill and thought it had a pro-vaccine agenda and would force parents to immunize their children.
“Both of these assumptions are not true,” Eden said. “Thus, we have spent countless hours educating people about the purpose of the bill and have come to an agreement for the 2017 legislative session.”
Eden is a mother of young children herself, but said this is not a personal issue, but rather about the health of the entire community.
“It is important to note that the purpose of the module is not to change a parent’s mind about their decision to exempt their child,” Eden said. “We have a moral responsibility to protect those most vulnerable among us.”