The Bulletin Board

House committee supports compromise on vaccine registry option

By: - March 14, 2022 12:48 pm
A medical worker holds vaccine vials

The full House will take up the committee’s recommendation on the vaccine registry legislation on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

There’s been a push this session by privacy advocates to switch the state’s new vaccine registry to opt-in, a move public health leaders warn would result in lower participation and make the registry nearly useless. Only Texas and Montana operate their vaccine registry this way.

A House committee thinks it has reached a compromise and voted, 20-1, to recommend a bill that would require health care providers to ask patients if they want their records included or excluded. 

“It’s not an opt-in or an opt-out,” said Rep. Jerry Knirk, a doctor and one of the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee’s most vocal public health advocates. “It’s an opt.”

Knirk opposed making the registry opt-in. Asked if he loved the bill as amended or could live with it, Knirk said, “I can live with it.”

The full House will take up the committee’s recommendation Tuesday. The inclusion of House Bill 1606 on the “consent calendar” indicates the committee believes House members will agree without debate.

The authors of the compromise amendment argue that requiring people to make a choice between two options rather than making them choose to be included will increase participation. The amendment would also allow the patient to request a printed copy of their vaccination record, an option supporters say incentivizes them to be in the registry.

Rep. Gary Merchant, a Claremont Democrat, said because those who administer vaccines must report the number of vaccine doses given, public health officials will still know how vaccinated the state is. But it won’t know the names and addresses of those who opt out of the registry. 

Rep. Joe Schapiro, a Keene Democrat, voted against the bill, saying he believes it still renders the registry an opt-in and will decrease participation.

The committee also voted to recommend a bill that would make it easier to withdraw from the vaccine registry by eliminating the requirement of a health care provider that is part of the current withdrawal form. House Bill 1497 is going to the House with a 21-0 committee recommendation that it pass. 

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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.

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