Bills in the Alabama Legislature would require health care providers to check a statewide patient database before administering vaccines and update the registry when they give any.
The database is currently available to anyone in the state who provides vaccines, Alabama Public Health Officer Scott Harris said. Pediatricians do a pretty good job of updating it, he said, but some other providers do not.
“The bill would require anyone who gives vaccines to enter them in the system,” he said. The one exception is for annual flu vaccines.
When children move across the state, their medical records don’t always follow them, Harris said.
“The whole gist of it is to make sure kids can have their records accessed when they’re going through school,” Harris said.
Besides providers, school nurses can access the “ImmPrint” database. ImmPrint stands for Immunization Patient Registry with Integrated Technology.
Last week, a St. Clair County infant too young to be vaccinated was announced as what’s presumed to be the first measles case in Alabama in recent years. The disease was considered eradicated in 2000, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported multiple outbreaks in at least six states and 764 individual cases this year.
State officials say the measles case has led many people in Alabama to wonder whether they’ve been vaccinated, helping to highlight the need for the registry.
“Most people my age don’t know what we got (vaccinated for) or when we got it,” Harris said.
If the registry is approved, in “outbreak situations,” health and school officials would easily know who has been vaccinated and who has not, Harris said.
Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 256. He said the registry also prevents over-vaccination by alerting medical professionals if they have already been given to a patient.
“With concerns about vaccines, you can see what a child has had,” Melson said. “It’s good to have a record of who’s been treated.”
His bill is waiting a vote in the Senate. A House version of the bill, House Bill 522 sponsored by Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, is in the House Health Committee on Wednesday.
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 before 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.
This coverage of the 2019 session of the Alabama Legislature is provided by the Capitol News Service of Alabama Daily News, based in Montgomery. BirminghamWatch is publishing reporters’ news and analysis but not commentary, from this new partner.