Changes to come to student immunization exemption forms

Published on October 04, 2017 at 09:54AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers won’t require parents to acknowledge they are responsible for any risks associated with not vaccinating their children in a change that comes after parents complained about a form required by state health officials.

The Administrative Rules Committee decided on Monday to change the language on the Utah Department of Health’s current personal-exemption forms to instead say that by signing, parents acknowledge that they have received the information.

The move is intended to make it easier for parents to opt their child out of required vaccinations.

Few families choose to take this route every year, said Joseph Miner, the health department’s executive director. Only eight out of 50,000 Utah kindergarten students enrolled in the 2015-2016 school were exempted from the vaccinations for religious reason, according to health department data.

That same year, only 22 out of nearly 53,000 seventh graders were exempt.

Parents interested in religious exemption to vaccinations for their child only need to send a letter to their child’s school. No further proof is required from parents.

Parents told state lawmakers that they were concerned that under the current language their signatures could be construed as an admission of guilt, which prompted them to go through their local health department for the exemption instead of schools.

The current clause will be reworded or removed entirely, said Rich Lakin, the department’s immunization program manager.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss sees the move by the committee as a step back in the work the state has done to educate parents about the risks their children and others are exposed to without vaccinations. Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis of Salt Lake compared the current language to warning labels on cigarette packets.

“The scientific evidence is right there, clear and absolute,” Dabakis said.