Take Action to Protect Student Health in Colorado
Apr 11, 2014
Earlier this week ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser explained that children deserve to be protected from disease while in public school. With rising school vaccine exemption rates and pockets of unvaccinated students, our children and our communities are at risk of suffering from unnecessary disease outbreaks. It’s what Dr. Besser explains as a “ticking time bomb“. Several states, such as WA, OR, VT and CA, have already taken measures to help increase immunization rates by modifying the way parents file for school vaccine exemptions. By ensuring parents understand the benefits and risks of vaccines, and by requiring more than just a parental signature to secure an exemption, these states are beginning to see a rise in student immunization rates. And Colorado is the latest state to stand up for student health with the introduction of Colorado House Bill 1288.
Over the past few months the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition has been keeping us informed about HB 1288 and how it is progressing through the state legislature. The bill preserves parental rights and continues to allow for parents to make choices for their children, but it also protects public health by ensuring parents are making well-informed and carefully considered decisions about immunizations. Under Colorado law today, parent signature is the only requirement to elect a personal belief exemption. This means it’s easier and more convenient to elect a personal belief exemption than to uphold the requirement to provide immunization records to a child care provider or school. It’s time we create a fair process for all parents, which will reduce the likelihood of parents are opting out of vaccinating their children as a matter of convenience.
What House Bill 1288 does:
HB 1288 requires that parents electing a personal belief exemption demonstrate that they understand the benefits and risk of vaccination, both for their child and the community. This is done by submitting a personal belief exemption that includes the signature of a health care provider licensed to administer vaccines, or by taking an online education module and submitting the certificate of completion to the child care provider or school. One of the most critical components of HB 1288 is that it also allows parents the right to access vaccination rates for all Colorado child care centers and schools. Every parent has a right to know the percentage of unvaccinated students are attending their child’s school so that they are free to make the best choice for the health of their child.
Why House Bill 1288 is important to everyone, not just for children in Colorado:
• There are three times as many unvaccinated American children in 2010 than in 2001.
• Colorado has the 6th highest rate of immunization exemption in the U.S., with 4.3 percent of children exempted from vaccines in the 2012-13 school year. That’s nearly 3,000 kindergarteners entering school without protection from one or more vaccine-preventable diseases. And these students don’t just stay in Colorado.
• Personal belief exemptions are the primary reason for exemption from recommended vaccines and have accounted for more than 90 percent of all exemptions among Colorado kindergarteners from 2003 to 2012.
• Evidence shows that vaccine refusal results in higher risk of vaccine-preventable disease for both the children who are exempted and others in the community. Unvaccinated individuals threaten the health of newborn babies, medically fragile children and the elderly who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons so this bill impacts more than just the students. who attend the school.
• HB 1288 strikes the right balance between preserving parent choice and protecting public health. HB 1288 maintains the personal belief exemption option, while ensuring parents are making well-informed decisions based on deeply held convictions.
Where House Bill 1288 stands now:
The Colorado House has previously voted in favor of the bill, and the bill was subsequently heard by the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee last night. They will likely be voting in favor of the bill on Monday, which will then advance the bill to be considered by the full Senate (most likely sometime next week).
What you can do to help get House Bill 1288 passed into law:
In order to get the votes necessary for the bill to pass, the Colorado Senators need to hear from those who support it. Even if you don’t live in Colorado please consider reaching out to the Senators to explain how Colorado will benefit from new opt-out rules that retain parental rights and allow parents to know the immunization rates of the child care centers and schools in the state. They are already hearing form a few vocal parents who oppose vaccines so please take a moment to contact the members listed on the Colorado General Assembly Senate Directory (click here for link). While every Senator could benefit from hearing of your support, there are a few that may need some extra attention. They include the following:
Senator Cheri Jahn (D); Cap: 303-866-4856 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator John Kafalas (D) Cap: 303-866-4841; E-mail: email@example.com
Senator Mary Hodge (D): Cap: 303-866-4855; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Ellen Roberts (R)Cap: 303-866-4884 E-mail: email@example.com
Senator Bernie Herpin (R)Cap: 303-866-6364; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Steve King (R) Cap: 303-866-3077; E-mail: email@example.com
Senator David Balmer (R) Cap: 303-866-4883 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Jeanne Nicholson(D) Cap: 303-866-4873 E-mail: email@example.com
To find out more about HB 1288 and the broad coalition of organizations that support it click here. You can even copy and paste this sample letter to send to the Colorado Senators:
I’m writing today to urge you to vote YES on House Bill 1288, which would strengthen the state’s personal belief exemption for childhood immunizations. It strikes the right balance between preserving parent choice and protecting public health.
Under Colorado law today, all children enrolled in licensed child care and schools (public and private) must be immunized against a series of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and pertussis. Parents can elect to exempt their children from these requirements for medical, religious or personal belief reasons. Parent signature is the only requirement to elect a personal belief exemption today—making it easier and more convenient to elect a personal belief exemption than to provide immunization records to a child care provider or school.
HB 1288 preserves the personal belief exemption option, but requires that parents electing a personal belief exemption demonstrate they understand the benefits and risk of vaccination both for their student and the community, by submitting to the school the signature of a health care provider licensed to administer vaccines or the certificate of completion of an online education module along with the personal belief exemption form. It also ensures parents can access the information they need about vaccination rates in child care centers and schools to make the best choice for the health of their child.
These two changes are common-sense ways to help address a growing problem. There were three times as many unvaccinated American children in 2010 than in 2001. Colorado has the 6th highest rate of immunization exemption in the U.S., with 4.3 percent of children exempted from vaccines in the 2012-13 school year. That’s nearly 3,000 kindergarteners entering school without protection from one or more vaccine-preventable diseases.
Personal belief exemptions are the primary reason for exemption from recommended vaccines and accounted for more than 90 percent of all exemptions among Colorado kindergarteners from 2003 to 2012.
Vaccination isn’t just a personal choice. Evidence shows that vaccine refusal results in higher risk of vaccine-preventable disease for both the children who are exempted and others in the community. Unvaccinated individuals threaten the health of newborn babies, medically fragile children and the elderly who can’t be vaccinated due to other health conditions.
I’m among the majority of people who view vaccinations as a safe and healthy choice for our kids and communities. With your help, we can spread knowledge in our communities and ensure our children aren’t getting sick from preventable diseases.
Please vote YES on House Bill 1288. Thank you for your service to Colorado.
A huge thank you goes out to the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition , a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping Colorado kids healthy by increasing childhood vaccination coverage. They have provided enormous support for this bill and deserve our gratitude and appreciation.
Please also share this request with your friends and family, because together we can keep kids healthy regardless of where they live.
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