Loud & Clear: Colorado Matters listeners react to governor, ‘Bright by Text’ and rescued lions

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Listeners air their views about recent Colorado Matters segments in Loud & Clear.

Gov. John Hickenlooper last week said in an interview that he'd like to make it harder for parents to opt their kids out of getting vaccinated. Colorado has one of the lowest childhood vaccination rates in the country for things like measles and the issue is close to the governor's heart. His son got whooping cough -- also known as pertussis -- as a baby.

MJ Mitchell of Denver called to say she didn't appreciate the governor's message: "If his son had been vaccinated against whooping cough and still got it, what good would it have done for his neighbor to have been forced to have their son to be vaccinated... I'm very opposed to the government forcing people to do unnecessary medications or to invade our bodies with things that we don't care to have in them."

Gina Ann Alianello of Littleton sent in a similar comment: "It is well-documented that a significant number of children and people have been debilitated by various vaccines. This does not mean all vaccines are bad. But it does mean vaccines are problematic -- and it does the public no service to pretend they are the only answer to public safety."

Colorado Matters producers shared those comments with Rachel Herlihy, acting director of the state's Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division. Herlihy says the effectiveness of vaccines depends in part on how old kids are and whether they get the full series of shots.

"Typically we say that you are not protected until sometime after your third dose of the vaccine, so that would be after six months of age... and that's one of our big concerns with pertussis, is that infants are the most vulnerable, because they can't be protected from the vaccine, they're too young to be fully vaccinated," she said.

Herlihy acknowledges that the pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine isn't as effective as other vaccines, but she still recommends that nearly everyone get it, with the exception of kids who are immunocompromised. Herlihy says it is important to build something called community -- or herd -- immunity.

"So obviously there's always going to be individuals who get that particular infection whether they're vaccinated or not, because we know the vaccine isn't perfect. But the idea of community immunity is that you have enough people in the community vaccinated that you can prevent further transmission of that illness."

To Alianiello point, that in vaccines can cause debilitating illnesses, Herlihy said like any medical intervention, there are risks, typically very mild.

"But there certainly can be cases where more severe reactions can occur... oftentimes less than one in a million. So, the risks of not vaccinating your child far outweigh the risks of vaccinating your child."

In response to our coverage of child poverty, Colorado Matters highlighted "Bright by Text." It's a text messaging service designed with low-income families in mind. Parents who sign up get text messages -- with child development tips. One suggests playing peek-a-boo with your baby to help develop trust.

Virginia Hensley, of Edgewater, was not impressed: "I have to say that as a 66-year-old grandmother I am completely disgusted... What kind of moron has to receive a text message to tell them to play peek-a-boo with their child? By stopping interaction with a child to take ANY text message what that parent is saying is, 'I'm disengaging from you and will show you that I am more interested in this little gizmo than you.'"

Hensley went on to write, "I see young parents pushing strollers in my neighborhood every day with one hand on the stroller the other hand on their cell phones. On more than one occasion I have seen them lose control of the stroller and run off the sidewalk because their were not paying attention to where they were going."

Our interview about the state opening its newborn screening lab on Saturdays brought this response from Carrie Beckman Olenick: "Thank you for reporting on this! My oldest son is alive today and a healthy seven-year-old because of newborn screening in this state. It is so important that these results are provided promptly."

And, finally, listener Nancy Bailey heard our story about 33 former circus lions -- and a bear -- coming to Colorado. They're scheduled to arrive in June at Denver International Airport, according to a spokesperson from Animal Defenders International.

Bailey wrote, "Thanks for your coverage of the lions' rescue by The Wild Animal Sanctuary." It was great -- right down to the lions' roars. Keep up the good work."

If you'd like to share your comments about something you've heard on our show, click "contact" at the top of this page, tweet to @ColoradoMatters or reach out to CPR News through Facebook.