Governor Tom Wolf today vetoed Senate Bill 618, anti-vaccination legislation that would severely limit medical providers and the public from having access to vital information on vaccination rates and vaccine efficacy.
Further, this harmful legislation would eliminate the Department of Health’s ability to respond to future matters of public health resulting in the spread of infectious diseases and gravely endanger those vulnerable, as well as limit the tools necessary to conduct a coordinated public health response and save lives of Pennsylvanians during a pandemic.
Gov. Wolf’s SB 618 veto message:
“This legislation is contradictory, misguided and irresponsible. This bill prohibits basic public health measures, which are necessary to curb infectious disease transmission and save lives. Specifically, the bill eliminates the Department of Health’s ability to take disease control measures for any future contagious disease, resulting in the inability to contain the spread of infectious diseases in the Commonwealth or long after the current pandemic is over.
“While the provisions of this legislation put all commonwealth residents at risk, individuals who are vulnerable to infectious diseases, such as residents of long-term care facilities, are at an even greater risk if the authority to mitigate transmission of infectious diseases is eliminated. In addition, persons of all ages with medical conditions and immunosuppressed systems are put at greater risk under this bill. As we have seen with COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks, public health response measures are critical in saving lives of vulnerable residents. Health orders are needed to provide direction to health care providers, medical facilities, patients, and those likely exposed to a disease during a pandemic.
“Alongside Pennsylvania’s nation-leading vaccine rollout, universal masking, distancing, and worker safety orders have been instrumental in fighting COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Short-sighted legislation to tie the hands of people dedicated to public health will only make infectious diseases more difficult to fight.
“Finally, this bill limits the Department of Health’s ability to collect vaccine and immunization information for the Commonwealth’s Statewide Immunization Information System. This would prevent medical providers and the public from having access to vital information on vaccination rates and vaccine efficacy.”
The governor also vetoed SB 516. View the governor’s veto message here.
The following bills were signed: HB 649, SB 115, SB 156.