Literally hundreds of bills are proposed by New Hampshire’s enormous (third-biggest in the English speaking world) legislature each year, and it’s incredibly hard to keep track of all of them as they percolate through hearings in committees and floor votes in the House and the Senate and often back again. So it’s not uncommon for me to write about a potential bill and then never follow up to see what happened to it, much to the irritation of readers.
Only today did I check back with a couple of bills related to vaccines required to attend public school or day-care centers that I have written about before. Both concern the list of diseases for which kids must be vaccinated.
One bill would have taken responsibility for that list away from the commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services and given it to lawmakers, saying that the list could only be changed if the Legislature did so in a new law. It was killed by committee.
The second bill would require that no diseases which are “non-communicable in a child care or school setting” be included on this school-required list. It would affect only Hepatitis B of the the 10 diseases on the list. That bill is still alive; I’ll be covering a Senate committee hearing about it on Thursday.
The argument goes thus: Hep B only affects teens and adults and is spread through sex and drug use – so why vaccinate little kids for it? The response goes thus: Because that’s the best, easiest way to cover most of the people who will get Hep B, which maximizes the public health benefit.
Both of these bills are part of a much bigger discussion about who should make public health decisions: Experts – who know more but who are removed from the acts they enforce – or the public itself, either directly or through our elected representatives, because we’re the ones affected, even if we don’t know much about the science involved. I personally lean to the expert side, for obvious geek reasons, but it’s not straightforward.
Two other unrelated bills would expand the number of vaccines that pharmacists could administer. Both of them are still alive, and will be the subject of hearings.