New legislation in Arizona would require a doctor's signature for parents to get a personal-belief waiver not to vaccinate their children.
The hope is that forcing parents to get a signature from a doctor or nurse practitioner - and watch a presentation on the risks of not vaccinating - will help curb the growing number of parents who are exempting their children from vaccinations.
The use of personal-belief waivers has doubled in the past 10 years. Now, medical waivers must be signed by a doctor. The proposed law would require a letter for personal-belief waivers as well.
"The intent is to start curbing the number of people who get exemptions," said Sue Braga, executive director of the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Parents would have to consult with a physician to understand the risks of not vaccinating."
The new law would not totally fix the problem. A recent Arizona Daily Star investigation found that many children were going unvaccinated not because of waivers, but because schools were not following state law requiring them to suspend students who don't have immunizations or a waiver. Despite the law, schools face no consequences for letting children go unvaccinated.
The proposed legislation is modeled after a similar law enacted in Washington state in 2011. That law also allows naturopaths to sign the waivers - Arizona's would not - and allows waivers to stand if they were filed before the law was enacted.
Other states are considering similar laws, including South Dakota, California, Mississippi, Kansas and Oregon. Vermont is considering eliminating all personal exemptions.
Rep. Cecil Ash, R-Mesa, introduced the bill this year just minutes before the deadline for new bills because the legislator who was supposed to do it couldn't be found. Ash heard the bill in his Health and Human Services Committee as an information session, with the March of Dimes and the Arizona Partnership for Immunization in support.
Ash thinks there's merit to the bill and said it should be heard again in 2013, but he is not running for re-election. The big battle over the bill, he said, will be whether physicians would have to sign the waiver every year or just one time.