SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers sparred Thursday over the details of a bill that would require parents to watch an educational video to receive an exemption for their children's vaccinations.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, the sponsor of HB221, emphasized that the bill does not take away parents' rights to exempt their children from immunizations.

The 15- to 20-minute video is meant to teach parents what to do in the case of an outbreak and standardize education across local health departments, according to Moss. She said many of the local health departments do not have the time or resources to educate parents on how to protect their unvaccinated children.

"Preparedness is a core Utah value," Moss said. "It's really invaluable when it comes to our children."

Moss also proposed amendments to the bill, including one that would reduce the video requirement.

Instead of having to renew their exemptions once a year, parents would only have to do so every time their child enrolls in a different school.

Moss said that ideally, parents would see the video three times throughout the course of a student's school career.

Rep. Michael Kennedy, R-Alpine, motioned to hold the bill until next year, calling the concept "not ready for prime time."

He said the video should be optional, and large families like his are unduly burdened by having to travel to the health department in person to get exemptions.

"I’m trying to figure out how busy families are going to comply with this," Kennedy said.

Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, sparred with Moss over whether the requirement would kick in every time a student switches to a new day care facility.

"I don't think it's reasonable to spell out every single situation," Moss replied.

Prominent conservative activist Gayle Ruzicka of the Utah Eagle Forum spoke in opposition of the bill. She said the health department should allow parents to get their exemptions online.

Many people in rural communities live far away from the nearest local health department, according to Ruzicka. She also said health department employees try to intimidate or talk parents out of exempting their children.

"Even my own daughter hates to go get that form," Ruzicka said.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, proposed a number of changes, including an amendment that would require health departments to make exemptions available online.

"I think with these amendments, it'll ease a lot of people's concerns," Ray said.

The committee voted to hold the bill for the second time while those changes are worked out.


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