A measure to better educate Colorado adults on the benefits and risks of vaccinating their children was approved by a House committee late Thursday.
The Health and Environment Committee’s 9-2 vote came after several hours of testimony, which at times blended into a debate over parental rights.
To date, Colorado kindergartners have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
Current state law requires only a parent’s signature to claim a personal, medical or religious exemption from vaccination, with the majority of exemptions for personal reasons.
State Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, said he wants to make sure parents have all the information on vaccinations and “that they’re not just opting out simply because of convenience.”
Pabon’s bill focuses on the personal-belief portion of the law. It would require parents to complete an online-education course that discloses the benefits and risks of immunization if they choose to opt out for personal reasons.
Moreover, it would require parents to submit to schools a statement of immunization exemption that includes a signature from a doctor or representative of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“There are kids who can’t get vaccinated because they’re immuno-compromised and are being exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases. To add on top of that, older populations that have medical conditions are also at risk,” Pabon said. “We just want to educate parents.”
Some parents are skeptical of the need for vaccines, fearing that vaccines carry their own risks, while others simply don’t want to be required to take these extra steps for exemption.
Dozens of parents and doctors testified Thursday at the state Capitol both in support and in opposition to Pabon’s bill before the House committee.
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