Council sets aside vaccine grant to hear critics

Parents hold signs Monday protesting a $1.5 million federal grant for an immunization database being considered by the Executive Council. The council voted unanimously to table action on the grant so that concerns of parents could be heard.

CONCORD — In response to a rush of emails and texts and with almost two dozen parents protesting outside, the Executive Council yielded to public pressure, postponing consideration of a $1.5 million federal grant supporting the state’s voluntary immunization program.

Families were opposed to what they called a “vaccine registry,” maintaining that it would violate personal privacy and could put the state on the road to mandating vaccines for all children in the future.

Executive Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Exeter, said he was flooded with email and text messages in the day leading up to Monday’s meeting of the council. He said the prudent thing was to provide more time for public comment.

“I want to be able to fully understand the concerns that have been raised,” Prescott said.

New Hampshire is the last state in the country to create an Immunization Information System.

This database would record all doses administered to patients, help providers schedule their appointments and ensure patients get only the vaccines they need, Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers wrote in his request to the council.

Lisa Morris, director of the state Division of Public Health Services, said the agency was unable to complete the database with an existing contractor and plans to hire another vendor to finish the job.

“We had some success on the ordering side, but the registry side that gives people information about what vaccines are due...we haven’t been able to successfully implement that part of the contract,” Morris told the council.

The federal grant was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control to the state Sept. 12; the money must be spent by next June 30.

“We have a pretty tight window,” Morris said.

Many of the emails against the grant came from Health Freedom NH, which on its Facebook page describes itself as challenging “our communities to improve health and freedom” and seeks to educate the public about health concerns with vaccines.

Activist Larisa Trexler, a registered nurse, has maintained the CDC “lied” in maintaining there is no connection between vaccines and some children developing autism. Trexler has said during her earlier years as a nurse, she accepted the medical establishment’s view that vaccines were safe for all children to receive.

The organization supports informed consent and every parent’s right to refuse to have their children vaccinated.

After the meeting, Gov. Chris Sununu said the council did the right thing, but this delay won’t change his support for the program.

“There have been a large number of citizens in this state who have had concerns over a vaccinations registry, as they called it. It’s nothing different than what we have heard before — issues of privacy and the rights of the individual. This isn’t a mandatory registry,” Sununu told reporters.

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