By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
A bill that would make it tougher for parents to skip immunizations passed Colorado’s House today.
Gov. John Hickenlooper stopped short of endorsing the precise language in House Bill 14-1288, but signaled strong support for vaccines.
“I support finding ways to get more kids immunized,” Hickenlooper said during a press conference to unveil the 2014 Kids Count report.
Hickenlooper said myths that vaccinations cause autism are still prevalent among parents even though “every scientific study seems to disprove that.”
His own son got a severe case of whooping cough back in 2003 when he was just four days shy of receiving his second dose to immunize him against the disease that’s also called pertussis. Even getting a diagnosis for his son’s illness was difficult. (Click here to view a public service announcement that then Mayor Hickenlooper recorded in 2009 to support vaccines.)
“It was so rare. Now we see more of it,” said Hickenlooper who wants to reduce vaccine-preventable illnesses.
“We’re looking at every way we can to get more parents (to vaccinate their children) and encourage them to get the full package of immunizations.”
The bill making its way through the legislature tries to close what supporters call a “convenience loophole.” They want to make it harder to skip vaccines than to get them. Under current law, parents can simply sign an exemption form saying they are skipping vaccines for personal or religious reasons. (Click here to read Vaccine supports deploy moms, want immunization grades at schools)
The new law would require them to get a health provider’s signature or to take an online class proving that they are aware of the dangers of skipping vaccines.
The measure also would require day care centers and schools to report their vaccination rates so parents can know in advance if their facility has a high rate of unvaccinated children.
Opponents who showed up in droves at a House hearing said they are well educated and don’t need the state of Colorado telling them how to handle personal health decisions. Many believe vaccines can be harmful and that federal and state health officials are merely propping up the pharmaceutical industry. They believe House Bill 14-1288 would be a step toward forcing all Coloradans to immunize their children.
The measure passed the House today with 42 lawmakers supporting it and 19 opposing it. Four lawmakers were excused.
It heads next to the Senate.