At its Board of Directors meeting on March 18, the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians took a stance of strong support for newly-introduced legislation that strengthens Ohio’s immunization laws by standardizing vaccine opt-out procedures for children enrolled in school, pre-school programs, and day-care programs.
Introduced on March 15, House Bill (HB) 559 standardizes the opt-out immunization form to be used by all school districts in Ohio and requires that a physician or other licensed health care provider sign the form attesting to the fact that they have counseled parents about their decision to opt-out of all required immunizations for school entry/attendance. The conversation with a physician or other health care professional would ensure that parents have all the appropriate medical and scientific information prior to making a decision about immunizing their child.
States that have standardized their process have seen a 35% decrease in opt-outs of vaccines in just one year.
The bill also streamlines how data regarding immunizations is handled and reported so public health officials, parents of immunocomprised children, and other stakeholders will know the opt-out rate at each school building. Ohio does not currently have reliable data regarding the number of children who have been exempted from immunization requirements at the school district and school building level. As a result, the ability to effectively respond to a disease outbreak is jeopardized. Much of this breakdown is due to the inconsistent handling of immunization forms and the transfer of information between school districts, local health departments, and the state.
Bill sponsors are Representatives Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville, OH) and Al Landis (R-Dover, OH).