Valley News – NHL unruly crowd forces DHHS to postpone vaccine registry hearing
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on New Hampshire Bulletin.
The state Department of Health and Human Services abruptly postponed a hearing on proposed vaccine registry changes on Wednesday after losing control of the room to an unruly mob of vaccine opponents and activists privacy rights.
Wearing “live free or die” shirts, renouncing masks and carrying “right to privacy” signs, nearly 150 people came to oppose what they see as an expansion of the vaccine registry. They got angry when the department tried to enforce the 95-person limit of the room and announced that the overflowing crowd would be waiting in the lobby for a turn to testify.
The presence of two security guards had no effect. The ministry’s offer to hold a second public hearing for those in the room was also not offered.
Even at 95 people, the small windowless auditorium was not an ideal setting for a public hearing as the state’s COVID-19 cases average 351 per day. It became more evident with almost no one wearing a mask and almost everyone singing, reciting the pledge of allegiance, and shouting at department officials.
Seventeen minutes later, Allyson Zinno, administrator of the department’s administrative rules unit, announced that the hearing would be rescheduled and held in a larger room. She did not give a date as the crowd cheered and demanded victory.
New Hampshire was the last state in the country to have a vaccine registry when it launched one in 2017. Given its controversial history, fierce opposition to proposed rule changes came as no surprise . In fact, the registry was delayed for two years due to objections to the ministry’s original rules about how people would choose to participate and what information would be recorded.
At the start of Wednesday’s hearing, Zinno said the rules do not extend access to the registry or create a vaccine passport. The crowd was not convinced.
The proposed rule changes are both small, such as clarified definitions, and more substantial, such as adding other health records to the registry and documentation when a person requests to be removed from the registry. The process for refusing to be included in the registry would remain the same: a health care provider must give a patient the choice to opt out.
The timing of the proposed changes is unclear.
The state is required to review administrative rules every 10 years, but may do so more frequently, the department said in response to questions from the Bulletin earlier this week. When asked if these proposed changes were related to COVID-19 or the vaccine, the department said in an email: “These rules apply to the administration of all vaccines, including the COVID vaccine. -19. ”
He continued, “The department can also update (rules) as often as there are changes needed.”
The ministry did not respond when asked to clarify whether the pandemic resulted in an early review of the rules.
The proposed changes would add a “medical screening record”. The ministry said this would include a history of illness.
“For example,” the ministry wrote in its email, “if someone has documented proof of chickenpox (chickenpox) immunity, they don’t need to be chickenpox immunity.”
Existing rules prohibit health care providers and the state from keeping track of a person’s decision to be removed from the register. That would change under the proposed rules.
The ministry said maintaining the record will allow the health care provider to ensure that patient information is not shared with the registry. It will also allow the state to remove someone from the registry and ensure that no patient information from other health care providers is included.
The ministry initially said it would take written public comments on the proposed changes until September 15. It was not clear on Wednesday whether he would extend the deadline once he announced a new date for the public hearing.