The Colorado Senate significantly watered down a vaccine education proposal Wednesday. Many parents came to the state capitol to testify that the original bill was a government overreach.
House Bill 1288 [.pdf] now requires schools and daycare centers to collect data on the number of children immunized and the rate of exemptions. The bill originally required parents to take an online education class or get a letter from a doctor or public health official before opting their children out of vaccines.
“It doesn’t take away parental rights,” said Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass Village).
Vaccines save lives said Shwartz.
“When I was 6 weeks old my father contracted polio and was a quadriplegic his entire life,” she said. “We cannot put societies at risk when we know medicine can prevent tragedies like a polio epidemic.”
Opponents say the education component is a brainwashing tactic to try and force parents to consent to vaccinations. Senator Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) said the glossy brochures talking about the benefits of vaccines only give half the story. He said vaccines can have serious medical risks and his own son had a bad reaction to the whooping cough vaccine.
“I know too many other people have seen permanent damage done,” said Lundberg. “What concerns me is the information that I see from health officials is not complete. It’s not the full picture.”
The house sponsor of the bill Dan Pabon (D-Denver) said the intent is to protect public health, especially those who can’t get immunized.
“We have children suffering from very bad diseases, mainly cancer and leukemia and then exposing those children to an environment where they may come down with life threatening diseases that may have been cured like measles and mumps,” said Pabon.
Colorado has one of the highest vaccine exemption rates in the country – but members of the Senate ultimately stripped the education requirements from the bill. Parents currently must sign a personal belief form to opt out.
Pabon said he may have to accept that the transparency piece is all that can pass right now. But he said this is not the end of the discussion and he plans to bring back legislation again if that’s what it takes.
Creating a conference committee is also under consideration to iron out the differences between the versions each chamber passed.