Just before midnight on Friday, May 2nd 2014, members of the Colorado House of Representatives voted 39 to 29 to accept the Senate-modified version of HB 1288 that rejected a requirement forcing parents filing a personal belief vaccine exemption for their children to undergo state-mandated vaccine “education” or obtain a signature from a pediatrician or other state-approved vaccine provider. Removal of the signature requirement and re-education component of the bill is a victory for the hundreds of concerned Colorado citizens who contacted their legislators and worked closely with NVIC’s state advocacy team to present testimony in public hearings in the House and Senate.
Legislators Listened to Constituents and Affirmed Parental Rights
“Many legislators took the time to listen to constituents expressing deep concern about a bill that would penalize parents for making medical decisions for their children,” explained NVIC Colorado State Advocacy Director Cindy Loveland. “This action shows that a majority of Colorado legislators support and trust parents to make informed vaccination decisions for their children without interference from the state.”
NVIC Executive Director Theresa Wrangham, who represented NVIC in a 2013 public engagement project examining the state’s personal belief exemption, testified at both public hearings and added, “I am proud to be a Colorado parent and stand with such an articulate and responsible group of parents who understood the stakes. They used NVIC's Advocacy Portal tools to pull together and uphold parental rights and defend informed consent.”
Colorado First State to Protect Personal Belief Exemption Without Modification
Colorado is one of 17 states that allows an exemption to vaccination for personal, philosophical or conscientious beliefs. This year’s orchestrated and well-publicized campaign by politically powerful groups associated with pharmaceutical companies, public health and other medical trade associations to restrict the personal belief vaccine exemption in Colorado was similar to campaigns waged in Washington, Vermont, California and Oregon between 2011 and 2013.
Washington and California passed laws compelling parents filing a personal belief exemption to first obtain a signature from a doctor or state designated health care worker, while Oregon mandated state-vaccine education and Vermont now requires parents to sign a statement acknowledging the risks of remaining unvaccinated. Colorado is the first state to protect the personal belief exemption currently in state public health law without modification.
Contentious Bill Provision Opens Door for Harassment
The stripped-down version of HB1288 heading to Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk for signature still contains provisions that NVIC opposes. The final bill requires every daycare facility and school in the state to publicly release vaccination rates, which opens the door for identification of children with a medical, religious or personal belief exemption on file with daycare facilities and elementary, middle and high schools.
Commenting on the bill’s potential for targeting of families with children taking vaccine exemptions, Dawn Richardson, NVIC’s Advocacy Director said, “While the bill no longer contains an offensive and discriminatory state enforced re-education requirement, what remains in HB 1288 could open the door to revealing which children in the daycare centers or schools have filed vaccine exemptions and make them vulnerable to harassment. In addition, much of what is still in the bill can be accomplished under current state statutes. The Governor should veto it.”
The bill, which becomes effective July 1, 2014, also requires the state health department to establish “a joint policy on immunization data collection and sharing” in consultation with other state departments.” In addition, it gives the state heath department discretion to require parents filing personal belief exemptions to re-file them more than once.Take Action Now - Register for the NVIC Advocacy Portal Today
To review the complete history of NVIC’s efforts on HB 1288 and be notified by email of what happens if the Governor signs the bill, sign up and become a user of the free online NVIC Advocacy Portal and link to the Action Alerts on the Colorado state team page.
Watch a video of the final House vote and discussion (starting at 5:19:20) and read details (pages 43-44) about the final House vote on May 2 in the Colorado General Assembly House Journal.
Thank You and Appeal for Vigilance
“Thank you to each and every citizen in Colorado who took the time to get involved in the legislative process and work through the NVIC Advocacy Portal to make your voice heard,” said Dawn Richardson. “We are grateful to legislators in Colorado for keeping an open mind and taking seriously the legitimate concerns of informed parents and health care professionals defending the legal right to make voluntary vaccination decisions.”
NVIC is encouraging everyone in Colorado and every state to stay engaged and continue to educate community leaders and legislators over the summer and fall and be prepared to respond if similar legislation is reintroduced.
“The forced vaccination lobby has a long term goal of persuading legislators to eliminate all non-medical vaccine exemptions,” said Theresa Wrangham. “We have to remain vigilant and ready to take action in every state. The best way for families and health care professionals to do that is by plugging into the NVIC Advocacy Portal so we can work together to respond in an effective way.”
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