A bill that cleared the Colorado Senate on Friday aimed at boosting the state’s child immunization rate is significant not by what it requires, but what it doesn’t.
The measure, SB163, does not require any parent to vaccinate their child if they have medical or non-medical objections.
The bill does not remove a parent’s ability to opt their child out of a statewide immunization database.
And it does not place any extra burdens on parents who don’t vaccinate their children, though it does require them to take the same effort to protect public health as vaccinating parents.
Still, the bill is designed to encourage more vaccinations, and to educate parents about the need to do so.
“Our vaccination rate for our kindergarteners is one of the lowest in the country, and it means that our kids are not safe from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat who introduced the bill with Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson.
“This bill moves the state forward as it relates to nudging up our vaccination rates,” Priola said. “Schools will benefit, families will benefit as well as our health care system will benefit.”
While the Senate made several significant changes to the bill to allow parents who don’t trust vaccinations to continue to opt their children out, many of them still want more changes to it, particularly a provision that requires them to fill out and get approved of a form to opt out of vaccinations.
They will get their chance to push for more changes when the bill heads to the Colorado House for more debate, said Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins.
“Those parents still aren’t done,” Marble said. “In the history of our nation, when have we ever required anyone to get approval of their beliefs before they can access their right? It is discriminating to assume that they are ignorant and in need of education simply for making a different decision.”
The bill calls for a 95% statewide vaccination rate — currently it’s at about 87% — and provides help to schools and communities about the importance of getting children vaccinated.