New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services quietly dropped proposed changes to the state’s vaccine registry and it is not saying why.
The proposed changes were met with fierce opposition by organizations like RebuildNH, which is opposed to vaccine mandates. State Rep. Melissa Blasek (R-Merrimack), a leader in the organization, said the proposed changes would have created a system for the government to track people who refuse to get vaccinated.
“It’s a massive government intrusion,” she said.
Blasek has been among a group of GOP representatives opposed to the way the Sununu administration has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. She signed on to an effort earlier this year to investigate impeaching Gov. Chris Sununu over his use of emergency orders.
While the state first approved a vaccine registry in 2016, the last state in the U.S. to create one, the registry has become a rallying point for some in the GOP who are leery of government overreach.
Blasek said the proposed DHHS rules would allow the state to share vaccine information on individuals with schools and other outside institutions. It would also create a separate registry of people who have refused to get a particular vaccine. The current rules also make it difficult for people to opt-out of the registry.
“There are lots of little backroom ways tyranny slips in,” she said.
Blasek led a group of between 150 to 200 people at a September public hearing on the proposed rule changes, forcing DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette to cancel the meeting. At the time, the reason given for the cancellation was that the meeting space could not accommodate the crowd.
“Bureaucrats aren’t comfortable with people knowing what they are doing,” Blasek said.
When a member of RebuildNH sent an email to Allyson Zinno, administrator of the department’s administrative rules unit, about a new public hearing date, Zinno responded with a one-sentence email Monday morning.
“The department is not moving forward with this matter at this time,” Zinno wrote.
Officials with DHHS and Sununu’s office did not respond to requests for comment. The reversal comes days after Sununu backed down in the face of a handful of shouting protesters and shut down an Executive Council meeting. That meeting has yet to be rescheduled.
Blasek said as far as she knows, the DHHS rule change proposal being dropped has nothing to do with the Executive Council protest.
While Rebuild leaders organized the Executive Council protest on Wednesday, they claimed they are not in any way responsible for the extreme behavior of some of the attendees.
“The actions that Sununu took during the state of emergency were unconstitutional and unlawful. That’s a fact. I’m not going to take responsibility for other people’s actions by stating the truth,” Andrew Manuse, chairman of Rebuild NH, told WMUR.
Blasek was adamant her group is not opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, but is instead opposed to mandates and is focused on personal freedom from government intrusion. However, her organization is actively spreading false information about the vaccine causing thousands of deaths. It’s a claim that has been repeatedly rebutted by health officials.
The now-canceled Executive Council was scheduled to consider accepting $27 million in federal money to support vaccine distribution.
Rebuild leaders have expressed concern about language in the federal contract they say undermines New Hampshire’s sovereignty. State officials point out the language in the contract is standard, and the state has already entered into other federal contracts with identical language.