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Vaccine database sought

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The Alabama Department of Public Health is trying again this session with legislation to require health care providers to check a statewide patient database before administering vaccines and update the registry with new vaccinations.

Public Health Officer Scott Harris said required use of the database would keep children from being vaccinated again unnecessarily when they move across the state and their records don’t follow them, or when an elderly patient gets a vaccine from a provider, like a drug store, other than his primary care doctor.

“We probably over vaccinate kids in some cases,” Harris said.

Flu vaccines are an exception to the database.

The similar bill cleared the Senate and a House committee last year, but died without a vote in the House.

Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, is carrying Senate Bill 56, this year and Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, is sponsoring House Bill 103. Both have come out of committee and are awaiting floor votes.

Last year, proponents said it would helpful during a measles outbreak to be able identify vulnerable students.

Besides providers, school nurses can access the “ImmPrint” database. ImmPrint stands for Immunization Patient Registry with Integrated Technology.

Meanwhile, Harris said medical records at a particular provider aren’t always permanent or retrievable.

“We have hosptials that close and those records are gone forever,” Harris said.

Harris on Tuesday said there is some opposition to the bill.

“There is a certain group of people who mistrust anything about data and government,” Harris said. “I think the point is, we’ve had this database on a voluntary basis for 20 years, and there’s never been an issue.”

According to the Department of Health, of the 770,835 public and private school students in 2017-18, nearly 93 percent of them had up-to-date vaccination records on file at their schools. Pickens County had the lowest reported rate of up-to-date records, 77 percent.

State law allows the state health officer and state board of health to decide which diseases children must be immunized for prior to attending school. The department requires vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.

State law also allows for exemptions from vaccines based on religious or medical reasons.

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