Ahead of public hearing next week, committee on medical interventions gets to work

By: - November 4, 2021 4:03 pm
Vials of the COVID vaccine

Nearly 25 pandemic-related proposals are on their way to becoming bills. (Getty Images)

If there’s any doubt COVID-19 and vaccines will dominate much of the next legislative session, consider the nearly 25 pandemic-related proposals on their way to becoming bills. They range from mask mandates and an audit of COVID preparedness in long-term care homes to unemployment benefits for workers fired for violating a vaccine mandate.

But first, a joint legislative committee is at work identifying what medical interventions – COVID-19 related and beyond – are allowed and prohibited by current law. Current permitted interventions include involuntary emergency admissions to the state hospital, medical care during an emergency at the state prison, and the ability of a guardian or surrogate to make medical decisions for an individual in their care.

The Committee to Examine the Policy of Medical Intervention Including Immunizations began its work this week, hearing from state agencies and advocacy groups. The public will get its turn Wednesday at 9 a.m. 

Among those who testify in person or writing will no doubt be members of Rebuild NH, one of the groups leading local opposition to mask and vaccine mandates. And their comments will no doubt be a preview of what lawmakers can expect to hear when they reconvene in January. Chairman Andrew Manuse encouraged supporters in an email this week to turn out in large numbers, show decorum, and share stories of vaccinations, mandates, and other interventions, especially those related to their employment. 

“We believe this is the event to attend to ensure your constructive, passionate testimony will help advance the cause of liberty,” Manuse wrote.

The testimony offered this week by agency heads and advocacy groups was not the stuff of headlines. Beth Daly, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, explained the vaccines mandated for school attendance – COVID-19 is not among them – and the medical and religious exemptions allowed. She covered the rules that allow the state to require a person to isolate if they refuse treatment for communicable disease. It rarely happens, she said, and when it does, people have agreed once they understand the medical reason for the isolation. 

Rep. Timothy Lang, a Sanborton Republican chairing the committee, asked Daly whether the state was risking liability by not asking people if they were choosing for themselves to get a COVID-19 vaccine or being required to by an employer. Those administering vaccines must tell individuals they can opt out of having their vaccination recorded in the state’s vaccine registry but are not required to ask why they are getting vaccinated.

“Our role at the department is to make the vaccines available to the public who want to get vaccinated,” Daly said. “Why someone is choosing to get vaccinated is up to that individual.”

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.