Vetoes threatened for vaccination proposals in Arizona Legislature
PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday he will veto any legislation that will undermine efforts to vaccinate most children in the state.
“Vaccinations are good for our kids and helpful for public health,’’ the governor told reporters when asked about three bills being pushed by Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix. “I’m not going to sign any law that doesn’t promote or extend vaccinations in the state of Arizona.’’
Ducey said he normally does not comment on measures moving through the Legislature.
“But because this involves public health, I think it’s important for people to know that we are pro-vaccination in the state of Arizona,’’ he said. “We want to see more of our kids being vaccinated rather than fewer.’’
The governor’s comments come on the heels of the House Committee on Health and Human Services voted 5-4 along party lines for three measures that public health advocates say could result in fewer children being inoculated even amid outbreaks of measles at several sites across the country.
One measure would expand the ability of parents to exempt their children from having to get the vaccinations now required before their children can attend public school or child-care centers.
Potentially more far-reaching, they would no longer have to sign a state-prepared exemption form that acknowledges the risk to their youngsters for refusing to inoculate, including serious injury and death. That same form also spells out that unvaccinated children can be kept out of school during outbreaks.
Barto called the form government coercion.
A second measure would require that parents be given extensive information about the risks of the vaccines.
That includes the multi-page inserts that manufacturers prepare for physicians. Now doctors give out a more simplified form approved by the Centers for Disease Control.
That same disclosure would also require parents to be offered a list of ingredients in each vaccine as well as explain to them how they can file claims against the federal government in cases of injury.
Several doctors who testified at the hearing last week said that the additional information would only confuse and scare parents.
The third would mandate that parents be told they have the option of having their children tested first, ahead of any vaccinations, to see if they already have immunity. Those opposed told lawmakers that the tests are not just expensive but unreliable.
Ducey told Capitol Media Services last year that he wants all children in Arizona to be vaccinated.
The governor said that, as far as he’s concerned, all children should be vaccinated against diseases ranging from mumps and rubella to chickenpox and measles. And he brushed aside claims by some that the vaccines have side effects, including a claimed link to autism.
“I’ve heard those rumors and those rumors concern me,’’ he said. “But I think that the medical evidence and the subject matter experts would say that those rumors are unfounded.’’
But that still left the question of the fact that more than 5 percent of children in Arizona already are using a personal exemption to opt out of the vaccines. That has led to claims by some health officials that Arizona is in danger of losing its “herd immunity,’’ where there are enough vaccinated people to help protect those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
On Wednesday, however, the governor would not directly answer the question of whether there are too few people getting inoculated in Arizona.
“I’m pro vaccination. I’m anti-measles,’’ Ducey said.
“I want to see fewer people being exposed to measles and the other things that we’ve spent decades through research and development in the medical industry and health care making our country a better place and safer place to live,’’ he said. “I want to see more kids being vaccinated.’’