House OKs bill aimed at encouraging vaccinations
A bill aimed at getting more children immunized for various illnesses cleared the Colorado House on Monday, but not without some opposition.
Nineteen Republicans in the 65-member chamber stood up against the measure, saying that it is a parental decision whether to immunize their children, and the state should have nothing to say about it.
Democrats who supported the measure said that’s not so.
Many of the illnesses children are immunized against, such as the mumps and measles, can infect other children, they said.
As a result, it’s a matter of community concern, said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, who introduced HB1288.
“Vaccination is not a medical decision like any other,” Pabon said. “It is not only a personal choice. Whether or not a parent vaccinates their child has very real impacts on the rest of the community.”
Pabon said 13,000 Colorado children last year did not receive immunization shots against several common contagious diseases, and those children can easily infect other children who haven’t yet been vaccinated against them.
Besides, Pabon said, the bill doesn’t require anyone to vaccinate their children, nor does it take away their right to opt out of them. It only requires them to be educated about the dangers of not doing so, he said.
But Republican lawmakers argued that the issue still is up to parents whether or not to immunize their children, and sometimes they do so for very good reasons.
“Parents I’ve talked to are the most educated parents I’ve seen,” said Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono. “They know exactly what they are doing and exactly what the risks are. Vaccines overall have been good, however, there are risks to certain populations.”
Saine cited some Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies that say vaccines can have side effects.
The CDC also warns, however, that not vaccinating a child can put that child and others at risk of contracting deadly diseases.
Current law allows parents to opt their children out of immunizations before they attend a public school if the student or parent submits a statement saying they are doing so based on religious or personal beliefs.
Under the bill, that statement must also include the signature of a doctor or other medical professional stating they informed the parents of the risks of not immunizing their child.
If they don’t want to get that signature, the bill also allows parents or their child to get a certification for completing an online education course by the Infant Immunization Program in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that shows the benefits and risks to immunizations.
The proposed new law, which now heads to the Senate for more debate, does not apply to children who are home-schooled or are enrolled in an online school and don’t interact with other children.
Despite those exemptions, opponents said it’s still a parental decision.
“I think what we’re doing with this bill is taking away a personal choice from parents, and I don’t think that’s the role of this (legislative) body,” said Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton.