The Arizona Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee met on Tuesday to discuss three House bills. While two of the bills passed unanimously, HB 2474, which relates to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved emergency use authorization vaccines, received some pushback.
HB 2474 states that immunizations issued by the FDA under emergency use authorization are not required for school attendance in the state. Dartmouth College graduate student Katherine Smith provided testimony in opposition of the bill.
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Smith said immunizations have been shown to be the most cost-effective public health measure that has prevented deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Schools are socially dense environments where students spend many hours in close proximity to each other,” Smith said. “The decision to not vaccinate can have serious consequences for public health.”
Little discussion followed Smith’s testimony, and Sen. Theresa Hatathlie (D-Pima) explained her stance when it was her turn to vote on the bill.
“I believe in vaccinations. I think that they are important for school children,” Hatathlie said. “I’m wearing a mask because I haven’t been feeling good for a week, but usually my sickness comes from my grandchildren because they are in schools.”
Hatathlie explained how children in schools can be susceptible to infections due to their close proximity to other students who are also frequently touching the same surfaces.
“I’ve always been a supporter of vaccinations because in recent years, there’s been outbreaks of measles—even in our country—and that’s not a good thing, so we just need to continue to have these vaccinations to be able to create herd immunity for our communities,” Hatathlie said.
Hatathlie expressed regret about the unavailability of measles vaccines when two of her siblings were born, because both of them died from measles when they were babies.
Sen. Janae Shamp (R-Maricopa) explained her vote by stating that emergency use authorization vaccines should not be a government mandate, and said she believes that the decision to become vaccinated should be left to parents of children.
HB 2474 passed by a vote of 4-3.