91: Immunization Proposals Await Action

Andy Baker White, ASTHO’s Senior Director of State Health Policy, discusses immunization proposals scheduled for consideration in legislatures across the nation; Caroline Chen, a journalist writing for ProPublica, connects syphilis to the public...

Spotify podcast player badge
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge

Andy Baker White, ASTHO’s Senior Director of State Health Policy, discusses immunization proposals scheduled for consideration in legislatures across the nation; Caroline Chen, a journalist writing for ProPublica, connects syphilis to the public health funding roller coaster and health care needs in rural America; and ASTHO announces new job openings.

ASTHO News Release: ASTHO Unveils Top 10 Public Health State Policy Issues to Watch in 2022

ASTHO Blog Article: Proposed Vaccination Laws to Watch in the New Year

ProPublica Report: Babies Are Dying of Syphilis. It’s 100% Preventable

ASTHO Webpage: Job Opportunities in Public Health and at ASTHO

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, January 5th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


The Omicron variant draws the president's attention Tuesday as he urges Americans to protect themselves with vaccines. Speaking ahead of a meeting with his COVID-19 response team, the president reminded the nation of the real value of vaccinations and the dangers for those not getting a shot.


We're seeing COVID-19 cases among vaccinated in workplaces across America, including here at the White House. But if you're vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected—you know, be concerned about Omicron, but don't be alarmed.

But if you're un-vaccinated, you have some reason to be alarmed. Many of you will, you know, you'll experience severe illness in many cases if you get COVID-19, if you're not vaccinated. Some will die—needlessly die.


Unfortunately, vaccinations have become a political hot potato.

In today's morning conversation, ASTHO'S Andy Baker-White discusses the variety of vaccination proposals waiting for lawmakers as they open their legislative sessions in state capitals across the nation.

So, it looks like vaccines will be a hot topic in many state capitals this year. What do lawmakers have planned?


We've actually seen a lot of bills that have already been filed in several state legislatures already. And we've expected, you know, lots of challenges or lots of bills in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine.

But we're also following some other issues related to vaccinations and, in particular, we're going to be looking at bills that might impact the ability of a minor—so, a child—to consent to vaccination without their parents' permission.

We're also seeing bills that have already been filed that deal with the collection by public health of vaccine data.

And then, also bills related to vaccines about who has the authority to determine what vaccinations a school can require and also, you know, the authority of public health agencies to maybe require vaccines in certain situations.

And then, finally, you know, another issue around vaccines that we're going to be following is access to vaccines. So, you know, one of the things that COVID has shown us is the access to the COVID vaccine, while the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine was quite tremendous, we have seen gaps among groups in being able to access and receive that vaccine.

So, we think that we'll probably be seeing bills that might allow the healthcare providers provide vaccines. We did see a lot of that in 2021, but we expect to see more of that in 2022.


Are most of the bills you've seen so far considered restrictive or anti-vaccine?


We are seeing quite a few of those, and a lot of those we're seeing are limited to the COVID-19 vaccine; so, they might be bills that say that a school or an employer can't require a student or an employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine specifically.

But we're also seeing bills that would have a positive impact on vaccines, like I mentioned. In Missouri, there's a bill that would allow dentists to provide the COVID-19 vaccine in certain situations. We're also seeing a bill in Indiana that would allow the health commissioner to basically prescribe the COVID vaccine to anyone who would want it.

So, you know, we're seeing some negative bills, but we're also seeing bills that would be positive for public health.


Do you think vaccines will come out ahead or behind, based on your scan of proposals that have been made public so far for this legislative year, 2022?


Well, that's to be seen; but I think there's a lot of concern that the really core public health laws around school vaccinations will be challenged and perhaps chipped away at during this legislative session. But at the same time, a lot of the proposals that we're seeing are being limited to COVID-19.

So, we'll see, we'll see. But we are following it and, you know, we'll do our best to let our members know what we're seeing happening in the states.


Immunizations are one of ASTHO's top 10 policy issues to watch in the new year. Baker-White has written a blog article about it.

Read the list and his assessment using the links in the show notes.


How has syphilis been affected by the public health funding rollercoaster, and how is it representative of the burgeoning healthcare needs of rural America? ProPublica journalist, Caroline Chen, connects the dots in a story that broke just before the holidays.

She talks with us about it starting Monday. Here's a preview.


You know, you might have people who live in rural areas who don't have great access to health care, who might have had trauma with the healthcare system, who are homeless, who just have other things on their mind where getting syphilis treated—no matter how dangerous it is for their baby—if they don't have symptoms right there and then, it's just not going to be priority.

And the resources you need for a complex sort of chronic preventative campaign has to be a long-term sustained commitment because otherwise you're just going to lose the most vulnerable people.



Finally, ASTHO has jobs available for public health pros searching for a new opportunity.

The organization is hiring a specialist for meetings and events, a manager of distance learning, and a senior analyst of evaluation and assessment.

You can check out these jobs and many others using the link in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's report.


Make sure to follow us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also listen on Alexa or Google assistant.

If you have time, we'd be grateful if you could leave us a rating and a review.


Be sure to join us again tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Caroline Chen

Reporter, ProPublica

Andy Baker-White JD MPH

Senior Director, State Health Policy, ASTHO