In recent years, several bills have been proposed that would undermine our public health infrastructure like never before. In 2022, 43 bills were proposed relating to vaccines in New Hampshire. Most were defeated. A handful of the defeated bills from last year have resurfaced this year, including HB 539 and HB 557.
Both bills were defeated by the House on March 23! This is a great victory for public health in New Hampshire.
HB 539 would prohibit public and charter elementary and secondary schools from conducting a vaccination clinic at any time during school hours or within two hours of the beginning or end of the school day.
New Futures strongly opposes HB 539. The well-reported “Tripledemic” consisting of flu, RSV, and Covid-19 has put a strain on hospitals nationwide and here in New Hampshire. School-based clinics that provide influenza and Covid-19 vaccines are one tool in the toolbox for public health practitioners to keep our communities safe. This legislation would remove the state’s ability to provide a vital public health service to its residents.
HB 539 was voted on by the House Education Committee on March 13th. It received a 10-10 vote, meaning that it will move to the House floor without a recommendation by the Committee.
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HB 557 would undermine New Hampshire's successful and innovative vaccine program by transferring rule-making power from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NH DHHS) to the New Hampshire Legislature. This means that politicians - not the doctors and epidemiologists that makeup NH DHHS's Vaccine Selection Committee - would determine the vaccine schedule and control if and when changes are made to the recommended schedule.
New Futures strongly opposes HB 557. New Futures supports public health policy measures that decrease illness and disease, including immunizations and programs that ensure equitable and broad distribution of vaccines-especially for children. New Hampshire’s vaccine for children program does just that. In New Hampshire, all children through the age of 18 years can receive vaccines at no cost through an innovative program that has been replicated by several other states.
There is a careful but nimble process within the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services regarding adding vaccines required for children. Before the New Hampshire Immunization Program adopts a new vaccine, the Vaccine Selection Committee within Department reviews input from providers, epidemiologists, and other stakeholders on the effectiveness of the considered vaccine. It is important to note that New Hampshire has only required 10 of the 16 vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). NH DHHS has said it has no plans at this time to mandate the COVID vaccine.
HB 557 was voted on by the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs on March 13th. It received a 10-10 vote, meaning that it will move to the House floor without a recommendation by the Committee.