PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday he will veto any legislation that will undermine efforts to vaccinate most children in the state.
“Vaccinations are good for our kids and helpful for public health,” the Republican governor told reporters when asked about three bills being pushed by Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix.
“I’m not going to sign any law that doesn’t promote or extend vaccinations in the state of Arizona.”
Ducey said he normally does not comment on measures moving through the Legislature.
“But because this involves public health, I think it’s important for people to know that we are pro-vaccination in the state of Arizona,” he said. “We want to see more of our kids being vaccinated rather than fewer.”
Ducey’s comments come on the heels of the House Committee on Health and Human Services voting 5-4 along party lines for the three measures. Public health advocates say the bills could result in fewer children being inoculated even amid outbreaks of measles at several sites across the country.
- One measure would expand the ability of parents to exempt their children from having to get the vaccinations now required before their children can attend public school or child-care centers.
Potentially more far-reaching, parents would no longer have to sign a state-prepared exemption form that acknowledges the risk to their children for refusing to inoculate, including serious injury and death. That same form also spells out that unvaccinated children can be kept out of school during outbreaks.
Barto called the form government coercion.
- A second measure would require that parents be given extensive information about the risks of the vaccines.
That would include the multipage inserts that manufacturers prepare for physicians. Now, doctors give out a more simplified form approved by the Centers for Disease Control.
Parents would also have to be offered a list of ingredients in each vaccine, as well as explanations of how they can file claims against the federal government in cases of injury.
Several doctors who testified at a hearing last week said the additional information would only confuse and scare parents.
- The third measure would mandate that parents be told they have the option of having their children tested first, ahead of any vaccinations, to see if they already have immunity. Those opposed told lawmakers that the tests are not just expensive but unreliable.
More than 5 percent of children in Arizona already are using a personal exemption to opt out of the vaccines.
That has led to claims by some health officials that Arizona is in danger of losing its “herd immunity,” where there are enough vaccinated people to help protect those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.