Senate committee chooses to wait on proposed changes to medical registry

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Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, shown here in this file picture, said she opposes the use of a government immunization registry.

Leslie Manoukian, Hailey, testified before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday and warned about some possible negative personal consequences about proposed changes in a statewide registry that collects records on people’s immunizations.

“This is a slippery slope,” said Manoukian. “Over time this plan would allow the collecting of personal data for every man, woman and child in Idaho.”

While opponents of the proposed legislation were not successful in killing the proposal, the committee did vote to defer any further action on the bill to a later date.

Dr. Christine Hahn, public health medical director for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, presented Senate Bill 1012 to the committee member. The bill seeks to change the language in an existing law that allows for immunization data to be collected on children, and where the law references “child” and “children,” to begin referencing “people” and “persons,” which would include adults in the registry as well.

Hahn explained that with the new legislation, children and adults could “opt out” of having their immunization data collected. Yet under the plan, the registry would keep track of an individual’s name, even when he chooses to opt out to indicate that the individual does not want his immunization data collected.

“If you’re keeping only a child’s name in the registry, you’re keeping their name precisely because they don’t want to be in the registry,” Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, noted during questioning with Hahn. “Why would you do that?”

“Because being immunized and being opted out are two different things,” Hahn replied.

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, asked Hahn if a child’s custody changes and the parents with custody don’t want the child’s data in the registry, can that data be removed. Hahn said that data can be removed retroactively.

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, wondered if a person who has opted out of the registry can be “opted back in again,” to which Hahn replied “yes.”

During the open testimony portion of the hearing, Manoukian, who is involved in a vaccination education movement, noted that “this issue is not as black and white as some think. I represent a huge spectrum of people who are concerned about their freedom and privacy, and they believe this legislation will intrude on both.”

Manoukian said “the original intent of this program in 1999 was to create an opt-in system, and now you’re serious about making it an opt-out system, while I suspect that most Idahoans don’t even know that this exists.”

Danielle Ahrens, Sandpoint, expressed similar concerns. “This kind of data has been used by child protective services agencies to remove children from homes,” Ahrens told the committee. “I want no part of it, none at all.”

“I just want this to be clear,” said Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, to Hahn. “In the case of an opt out, it appears that the only thing you would be removing is the immunization data itself, and not the person’s name, is that correct?”

“That is correct,” Hahn responded. “In order to do a blocking, the system requires a first name, a last name and a date of birth.”

Thomas Rand, a medical doctor from Boise, testified in favor of the bill. “Those of us who provide immunizations are very sensitive,” he stated. “We are sensitive to patients who are uncomfortable about immunizations, but we are also sensitive about privacy concerns. I’m proud of the registry we have, and we would never misuse people’s information.”

But Dr. Mary Migliori, also a physician in Boise, provided a different perspective. Noting that she was “once was the biggest advocate for immunizations,” Migliori told of how one of her own children was diagnosed as autistic, a diagnosis that she now attributes to bad vaccinations.

“So I take it that you support this bill,” Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, said. “You seem to be arguing that we need this bill, so children don’t get vaccinated against parents’ wishes, correct?”

“Oh, no senator, not hardly,” Migliori responded. “I absolutely oppose this.”

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