Just in time for the next bout of flu, a new state law takes effect Wednesday that may make it easier to get immunized.
The law will allow pharmacists with special training to administer certain vaccines and immunizations without a doctor’s prescription.
State law already allows pharmacists to administer certain immunizations, vaccinations and emergency medications. But until now, pharmacists must first have a signed prescription from a physician.
This measure eliminates that requirement.
There are, however, some restrictions, including a limit on what kinds of immunizations could be provided, in response to doctor concerns about whether pharmacists are qualified to decide what shots people need. Allowed shots are those vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for adults, including for influenza, certain types of hepatitis, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria and pneumonia.
On another medical front, it also will become more difficult beginning Wednesday for those who were injured in hospital emergency rooms to successfully sue for malpractice.
The new law leaves in place the requirement that someone suing for medical malpractice show the care received did not meet the professional standards expected.
Current law requires proof only by a “preponderance of the evidence,” essentially that it is more likely than not the doctor committed malpractice. The new law bars recovery unless malpractice can be proven by “clear and convincing evidence,” a burden more difficult to prove.
Doctors and hospitals said the change will make medical professionals more willing to staff emergency rooms, where patients show up seriously ill or injured and where medical histories are not readily available. But opponents argued, unsuccessfully, that fear of malpractice suits is only one reason doctors don’t want to work in those situations, what with low pay and long hours.
Also taking effect Wednesday is a law giving public school students some new rights. It prohibits schools from discriminating against students or their parents based on their religious viewpoints.
On the academic side, that prohibits students from being marked down for expressing a religious viewpoint in an assignment.
That does not mean a student, if asked to explain the theory of evolution as taught in class, can simply respond with an essay saying evolution is untrue. A student would still have to answer the question asked.
But it says if a student is asked to express a viewpoint or opinion, such as picking a favorite historical figure, that student remains free to pick a religious figure.
Outside the academic sphere, a school cannot bar a youngster from wearing jewelry or T-shirts with religious messages unless there is a ban on all jewelry and all clothing with messages. And students will be allowed to have prayer meetings or other religious activities to the same extent that other nonreligious activities are permitted.
Legislators also agreed to put some new restrictions on the release of animals from shelters.
The new law says if the dog or cat was not licensed when picked up, then the animal has to be spayed or neutered at the owner’s expense. An owner can get around that by showing surgery would be “medically contraindicated” (inadvisable) or by paying a $50 fee above and beyond any other charges.
Other bills that take effect Wednesday include:
• Creating a special fund that can be used to financially reimburse those defrauded by loan originators;
• Requiring cities and counties to allow charter schools to operate anywhere public schools are permitted;
• Allowing insurance companies to divert a combined total of up to $10 million a year in tax premiums to instead help provide scholarships for students to attend private and parochial schools;
• Specifying that those discharged from the military while in Arizona are considered state residents, no matter how long they have been in Arizona, and entitled to pay lower tuition rates at universities and community colleges;
• Limiting the ability of cities to remove political signs from street rights of way;
• Expanding laws giving special protections to domestic violence victims to also include those who were just dating, as opposed to married or living together.