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Fireworks Bill Advances Despite Opposition

Despite fifty minutes of largely critical testimony on February 6, a divided Senate subcommittee approved legislation (SSB 1051) to legalize sales of fireworks in Iowa. The sales can occur in tents or buildings in time periods overlapping July 4 and January 1. Senators Jake Chapman (R-Adel) and Jason Schultz (R-Schlesweig) supported the bill, which Senator Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) opposed.


Representatives of health organizations, local government, firefighters, veterans, and EMS personnel spoke against the legislation, citing:


* The high risk of injuries to children (e.g., the rate of child injuries from fireworks is six times higher in Missouri, — where sales are legal – than in Iowa)

* The increased risk of anxiety and PTSD from fireworks

* The inherent hazardous character of fireworks and the difficulty of ensuring a safe distance

* The increased demand on EMS and firefighters, especially in rural areas dependent on volunteers

* The lack of an opt-out option for local governments



The Iowa-AAP has registered against the legislation, which now goes before the Senate State Government Committee.  The Des Moines Register has a long report on the hearing.

Divided Subcommittee Advances Immunization Exemption Bill

Divided Subcommittee Advances Immunization Exemption Bill

Over the objections of Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames), the Iowa-AAP, and 20 other health and education groups, Reps. Steven Holt (R-Denison) and Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville) advanced legislation (HF 7) weakening Iowa’s compulsory immunization law — described in an earlier post. The House Human Resources Committee will now consider whether to add to medical and religious exemptions from compulsory immunization a new one because of “personal conviction.”


While taking no position on the legislation, the Iowa Department of Public Health’s liaison Deborah Thompson cited several concerns. In a three-page statement, she warned the new provision would lead to fewer immunizations, putting children at greater risk of infection – particularly those unable to be immunized because of age and medical conditions. Citing the experience in other states, she warned of a likely increase in infection rates and the resultant costs.


Dr. Nathan Boonstra, an infectious disease expert at Blank Hospital and a board member of the Iowa-AAP (pictured), addressed the committee — warning that withholding vaccines from a child raises the risk of infection not just for that child, but also for many others, particularly in a school setting.  Adding unvaccinated children increases the risk of disease for others around them dramatically — particularly for children with special medical needs like congenital heart disease or severe asthma. He further maintained scientific research has shown vaccines as safe and effective.


Rep. Wessel-Kroeschell agreed with the two experts – noting the adverse effects on children and communities from the bill’s exemption.


Without responding to the arguments against the bill, Reps. Holt and Salmon insisted it was necessary as a matter of “freedom” because no one should be forced by government to put something into their body.


The Iowa-AAP has registered against the legislation and its president Dr. Marguerite Oetting has developed a statement on the importance of immunizations. Iowa-AAP will also be working with a broad coalition of organizations to persuade the House Human Resources Committee to oppose the bill.


Update: This legislation stalled in the House Human Resources Committee (more). 

Iowa-AAP Opposes Bill Expanding Immunization Exemptions

The Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is opposing legislation (HF 7) that would allow an exemption from the state’s compulsory immunization law based on someone’s “personal conviction.” Current Iowa law (Iowa Code 139A.8) allows for exemptions only if (1) a medical professional attests that immunizing would be “injurious” or (2) immunization would conflict with the “tenets or practices” of a person’s “recognized religious denomination.”


An American Academy of Pediatrics statement on childhood immunization calls it one of the “crown achievements” in public health and a major component of pediatric health care and disease prevention. The statement recommends permitting only medical exemptions to school entry immunization requirements.


Sixteen states currently allow conscientious or philosophical exemptions to compulsory immunizations. Such laws were blamed for a 2014 outbreak of measles in California and other states – the worst in 20 years.


Several other medical and educational organizations have registered against HF 7. The House Human Resources will consider the bill; it is not yet assigned to a subcommittee.


Update: This legislation stalled in the House Human Resources Committee (more).