Lawmaker says immunization 'risk' statement creating confusion

by Ben Lockhart @benlockhartnews for the Desert News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers asked state health officials Monday why parents seeking personal exemptions to immunizing their children are asked to sign a statement holding them responsible for any "risk" incurred by doing so.

The statement in question is a line on a form that says, "I understand I am responsible for the risk of not vaccinating this child."

Some legislators say they're worried the statement passes on legal liability to parents, which is not required or provided for under state law.

"Many see (the language) as an assumption of risk, an admission against interest that could be used against them in a future legal proceeding if there were charges of child endangerment, child abuse, things of that nature," Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, said at a meeting of the Utah Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee.

Greene, co-chairman of the committee, was speaking to Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health.

The health department adopted the statement on immunization exemption forms in July 2016 after consulting with local health agencies and others, said Amy West, an attorney with the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

Greene said complaints have been raised by parents who say they submitted signed statements requesting an exemption on religious grounds, but schools wouldn't accept those. Instead, the schools required that parents fill out a form that could be obtained at a local health department, he said.

Miner said the state health department until recently had not been aware of a wrinkle in the law that allows parents seeking a religious exemption for immunizations to turn in signed statements at schools without needing a form from a local health department. The Utah Department of Health has since made note of that part of the law, he said.

"They can write (their religious exemption request) on a napkin or any kind of written statement," Miner said.

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