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Ohio bill aims to streamline school vaccination data collection

Ohio lawmakers are considering changes to standardize the way schools collect data on student vaccinations — including requiring that a doctor sign off when a parent wants to opt out — as many schools still struggle to meet state standards for immunizations (Source: “Lawmakers seek changes as school vaccination rates remain low,” Dayton Daily News, March 22, 2018).

Medical professionals backing the effort say Ohio needs a more streamlined process to ensure health professionals and parents have accurate data on vaccination rates. But the proposal is already drawing criticism from some parents, who want to protect their ability to choose not to vaccinate without interference from a doctor.

Schools are required to report that information for all students in kindergarten, seventh and twelfth grades, and for students who enter a new school. House Bill 559 would create a standardized form that every school in Ohio would use to collect vaccine information from each student at the required grade levels. A health care professional — whether a physician, nurse practitioner or health department nurse — would complete the form to show what vaccines the child has received.

Parents wishing to opt their child out of certain vaccines would still be able to do so for religious or personal beliefs, but they would need a health care professional to fill out the same form, acknowledging that they had a conversation prior to opting out. The bill also calls for the school-level data collected by the Ohio Department of Health each year to be published online, so that public health officials, stakeholders and parents can know the opt-out rate by school building.