Bill clarifing vaccine exemptions for students hits Senate floor

House Bill 298 sent to Senate on Thursday
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 5:43 PM MDT
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BOISE, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — As ages for COVID-19 eligibility drop to high school-aged residents of Idaho, a bill strengthening the opt-out exemptions for students and their families heads to the Senate floor, after passing the house with a vote of 50-10 with one absence.

Of those who voted against the bill, representative Ilana Rubel believes Idaho’s exemptions are clear and expansive enough as it is.

“[The exemption] doesn’t need to be religious, doesn’t need to be health,” says Rep. Rubel. " So, you don’t need any special excuse at all, it’s very easy to opt-out.”

House Education Committee Chair Lance Clow hopes the bill can pass and lead to more transparency about the vaccine exemptions made available in Idaho.

“Occasionally throughout the year notices might be sent home to parents about vaccinations, and apparently this is what triggered this bill,” says Rep. Clow. “Those parents [who] had already opted out the vaccinations for their children and the letter didn’t clarify or make sure that was clear.”

RUbel also worries that this bill could ultimately result in a burden for school districts without much change in policy or vaccination numbers.

“I hate to set a precedent of putting burden after burden after burden on our schools,” says Rubel. “These extra things and notifications they have to send out when what they’re doing is already more than adequate.”

Vaccination numbers among students in Idaho can’t get much lower, as the C.D.C. reports Idaho as second to last in vaccine rates in students entering the classroom.

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