At halfway point of legislative session, bills that undermine public health remain – commentary

April 5, 2022 5:40 am
A person receives a COVID booster shot

House Bill 1210 “would effectively prevent businesses, hospitals, and other entities from requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.” (Emily Elconin | Getty Images)

Last week marked the halfway point of New Hampshire’s 2022 legislative session, and with numerous harmful bills moving forward, the health of our state remains under attack.

In this first half of the legislative session, public health came under fire with an unprecedented assault on our state’s public health system. Representatives and senators had to navigate more than 40 bills that, if passed, would not only undermine New Hampshire’s response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic but also our ability to prevent future public health crises.

Thanks to the strong voices of health and wellness advocates and lawmakers, many dangerous bills, such as House Bill 1035, Senate Bill 288, and House Bill 255, among others, did not pass in recent months or were amended to be much less harmful. While this is a great sign that lawmakers are listening, there are more anti-public health bills, including House Bill 1210 and House Bill 1606, still looming and threatening the public health of our state. Through contacting lawmakers, writing a letter to the editor, testifying at public hearings, and other actions, we can let our elected officials know these bills are not right for New Hampshire.

Here is a deeper look into these harmful proposals:

HB 1210, which passed the House of Representatives last month, would effectively prevent businesses, hospitals, and other entities from requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and other deadly conditions. Specifically, this bill proposes to require all publicly funded organizations or institutions to grant requests for a conscientious exemption from all vaccines. This means that colleges, universities, health care organizations, and any other employer that accepts state or federal funds would have to grant exemption requests based on conscientious objection for vaccines against diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, polio, meningitis, and other deadly diseases that have nearly been eradicated. This would not only put individual workers at risk, but could increase exposure and risk to seniors, children, and other vulnerable populations.

As proposed, HB 1606 would similarly undermine the public health of our state. If passed, this bill would weaken New Hampshire’s vaccine registry, a critical tool in increasing vaccination rates and combating infectious disease, by forcing individuals to opt in to the program rather than allowing them to opt out, as is the case under current law. Currently, individuals can choose at any time not to participate in the registry which is secure and confidential. The database is extremely helpful to the public health community for many reasons because it is the tool used to monitor community immunization rates and identify coverage gaps to be addressed. By shifting the program to “opt-in” participation, however, this bill would create new barriers to participation, limiting the data available, and leaving the state without a critical tool to inform its public health response.

These bills, among others still under consideration, would deeply impair the state’s ability to finally overcome COVID-19 and to prevent and address public health crises into the future. Few medical interventions compete with vaccines for their cumulative impact on the health and well-being of entire populations, and we must all speak up against attempts to undermine the impact they could have on our communities.

As the legislative session reaches the halfway point, there is still much advocacy to be done. Please join us in encouraging New Hampshire lawmakers to support the health and wellness of all Granite Staters by rejecting these harmful bills. The future of our state depends on it. To get involved and or for help with your health and wellness advocacy, visit:

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Michele Merritt
Michele Merritt

Michele Merritt is the CEO and president of New Futures, a New Hampshire health policy and advocacy organization.