PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Some fear our public health could be at risk if three new bills addressing immunizations become law in Arizona. The lawmaker who introduced them, Paul Boyer, said he has hundreds of emails from parents saying they stand behind him. He also said he's not anti-vaccine, he's just anti-mandate.
"With our baby coming along in a few weeks, I've done a lot of homework," said Sen. Boyer. Some say the bills he introduced would steer our state the wrong way.
One bill, HB2472, would require doctors to tell patients they can request an "antibody titer test" to see if they're already immune. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee said "AHCCCS concurs that there would be no cost to the agency unless they were required to pay for additional tests. The agency estimates a state cost of up to $4.9 million if they are required to cover all antibody titer tests."
Another bill, HB2470, would allow parents to refuse vaccinations for religious reasons; personal reasons to refuse vaccinations are already on the books.
"I've seen organizations, national and statewide, that said they're working on removing personal exemptions from state statutes throughout the country," Boyer said. In fact, a Democrat-sponsored bill, HB2162, was introduced this session and is doing just that, but it hasn't been assigned to a committee.
The last bill sponsored by Boyer, HB2471, would create a longer list of information a doctor gives you before a vaccine, like the ingredients. There are three identical bills in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Nancy Barto.
"There are a lot of people with 'MD' after their name who are against this, what do you have to say?" we asked Boyer.
"They keep talking about herd immunity, the risks to children," Boyer said. "I would like to share with them the hundreds of emails from parents who have been vaccine-injured." He also said he had been pouring over statistics from VAERS, or the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
"I always think we should trust parents and I always believe anytime there's risk, there should not be a mandate," Boyer said.
"This is a critical time for our vaccination rates, and it would disturbing to me to see bills go through that work against the things we really need to do," said the former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, Will Humble. He is now the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association. He said state data shows vaccination rates already dipping.
"These bills will serve to work against the direction we need to go, which is to get more families to choose vaccination," Humble said. He also said it only takes one person coming back to a low-vaccination area to have catastrophic consequences.
"On average, Arizona vaccination rates for MMR, as an example, are going down half a percent per year, so after five years that's 2.5 percent," Humble said. "We're already at the 95 percent threshold." He is referring to what is known as "herd immunity."
"At some point, we're going to have that kind of an outbreak in Arizona," Humble said. "It's a matter of time, I think."
Boyer's religious exemption bill will be heard in the education committee Tuesday afternoon. The bill related to antibody titer testing will be heard Thursday.
According to The Associated Press, Maine legislators are considering a proposal to repeal religious and philosophical exemptions to school immunization requirements.