Restricts Medical and Religious Exemptions, Expands Minor Consent, Expands Vaccine Tracking and Reporting

State: MA
Bill Number: H.2151/S.1458
Position: OPPOSE
Action Required: Continue to contact Joint Committee on Public Health Members, your Senator, & Representative, ask them to OPPOSE, submit testimony
Status: Heard in Joint Committee on Public Health on 7/26/2023, vote not yet taken

Legislation Details:

UPDATE: 7/26/2023 - H.2151 and S.1458 were heard in the Joint Committee on Public Health on 7/26/2023, but no vote was taken. Continue to contact Committee Members and your legislators to OPPOSE. Please follow instructions in this action alert:

See Corresponding Action Alert

UPDATE: 7/21/2023 H.2151 and S.1458 are rescheduled for a hearing in Joint Committee on Public Health on Wednesday, 7/26/2023 from 9:00AM-6:00PM in the Gardner Auditorium. View the agenda HERE. See the corresponding Action Alert for In-Person and Written Testimony information. 

UPDATE: 7/14/2023 - H.2151 and S.1458  are scheduled for a hearing in Joint Committee on Public Health on Wednesday, 7/19/2023 from 9:00AM-6:00PM in the Gardner Auditorium. The agenda is HERE

S.1458 was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health on 2/16/2023. This bill is sponsored by Senator Rausch with 6 cosponsors. H.2151 is sponsored by Representatives Donato and Rausch with 7 cosponsors. H.2151 was also referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health on 2/16/2023.  

These bills eliminate current laws, Chapter 76 Sections 1515C15D on vaccines required for schools and colleges that includes current medical and religious belief exemptions and enacts a new section CHAPTER 111P - COMMUNITY IMMUNITY.

This new law applies to “Covered programs”, defined as:

               a child care center, an early education and care program, a family child care home, a large family child care home, a public preschool program, or a school-aged                child care program,

               a school, whether public, private or charter, that provides education to students in any combination of grade levels from kindergarten to grade 12, inclusive, and                      including, but not limited to, any school activity open to children who are otherwise instructed in accordance with section 1 of chapter 76;

               a recreational camp; or

               an institution of higher education, whether public or private

A private covered program may implement immunization requirements more stringent than those in the new law and they are only required to accept medical exemptions, so religious belief exemptions could be denied.  

The vaccines to be required are established by the department and consistent with generally accepted medical practice.

While the bill still allows for medical and religious belief exemptions to the vaccines required, the bill places multiple conditions on these exemptions and requires the health department to maintain the forms used and what those forms contain. The religious exemption would have to be signed by the individual’s primary health care provider and if the individual doesn’t have one the health department can require alternative requirements.

Exemptions would have to be submitted to the department of public health for review and the exemption will only be good for one year.

The bill also requires all covered programs to report the number of exemptions to the department and the department shall annually publish the numbers.

Any covered program that has not achieved herd immunity shall be designated as an elevated risk program.  “Herd immunity” is defined as population-wide resistance to the spread of an infectious disease within that population, resulting from a sufficient percentage of people receiving one or more immunizations against the disease.

The department is required to develop pamphlets about immunization safety and immunization efficacy, conduct outreach that shall focus on, but not be limited to, immunization gap populations in under-vaccinated communities, and collect and report data.

The bill expands current law on minor consent, Section 12F: Emergency treatment of minors, to allow minors to consent to medical treatment if they are at risk of contracting a disease defined as dangerous by the department. This current law only allows minors to consent to treatment for these dangerous diseases.  The bill will add the word “prevention” so a minor would be able to consent to vaccination for a dangerous disease without the knowledge or consent of the parent.  

The vaccine tracking required by the department in section 18 includes key socioeconomic and demographic indicators, including race, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, primary language, occupation, household income, residence in elder care facilities and other congregate care settings, and housing status, and report such data on its website not less than weekly. 

If passed the sections changing the exemption requirements would go into effect on July 1, 2025 and the rest would take effect on passage. 

These bill are similar to S.1517/H.2271 from last session. - text, status and history for S.1458 - text, status and history for H.2151