Vaccine exemptions would be harder to get under new bill

Photo: Vaccination (iStock)

The legislation was inspired by a report released late last year that blamed Colorado's current vaccination policy for a high rate of families taking Personal Belief Exemptions (PBEs) and recommended making the system tougher.

Under the current policy, parents just have to sign a piece of paper saying vaccination violates their personal beliefs and they're exempted from all required immunizations. That one opt-out is good for a child's entire time in school.

While Colorado has one of the highest rates of PBE in the country, it's unclear whether that actually translates into more unvaccianted students, since some families may find it easier to sign the form than to track down their immunization records. House Bill 1288 would also require the state to do more to collect and publish information about how many children are actually skipping immunizations.

The push to change the vaccine exemption rules is being sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

"We want to make sure [parents] have the full package and full information to make informed decisions about their child’s health and public health in general," said House sponsor Dan Pabon [D-Denver].

But Theresa Wrangham, head of the National Vaccine Information Center objects to the policy change. Wrangham believes families who choose not to vaccinate their children usually have done enough research on their own and that the bill isn't about informing parents.

"It’s a harassment technique, pure and simple," said Wrangham.

NVIC is organizing vaccine opponents in Colorado to contact lawmakers with their concerns about the bill. On the other side, a newer organization, Voices for Vaccines, is rallying pro-immunization families to support the legislation.