FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on a bill up for debate tomorrow in the GOP-held Colorado Senate, either timely or most unfortunately timed given related headlines this week:
Federal data Tuesday showing Colorado kindergartners having the lowest immunization rate in the country would seem to illustrate that parents here already have the option of not vaccinating their children against certain diseases.
But this week, just as a politically fraught debate over vaccinations is dominating the conversation between 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls, Colorado lawmakers will debate legislation that would underline the rights parents already possess to opt out of immunizations as well as comprehensive sex education in schools…
“As a parent, I probably know best for my children,” [Sen. Tim Neville] said. “I already have the responsibilty under law, I should make sure I have the right to make their decisions for their education, their moral upbringing and also to keep them safe with the medical decisions being made.”
CBS4's report last night: "When it comes to vaccines, Republicans couldn't have picked a worse time to make this a political debate."
Many blame the expanding measles outbreak on the increased number of families choosing not to vaccinate their children. Now there may be a bill to support those parents who are against vaccines.
Parents can already opt out of state mandated vaccines for their children, but State Sen. Tim Neville, a Republican, wanted to make it clear in a bill already drawing sharp fire.
“Are vaccines important? Vaccines are important to people, sure, we’ve had vaccines for many things, but it should be up to the parents,” Neville said. [Pols emphasis]
Colorado's low rate of vaccinations is a direct consequence of the state's relatively easy process for opting children out of "mandatory" vaccinations. For a number of years, the growing incidence of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was linked to vaccines, which increased the number of parents choosing to opt out their kids. But recently, outbreaks of preventable diseases–most recently measles, but in Colorado we've also seen a spike in cases of whooping cough–are making the choice to not vaccinate one's children increasingly controversial. In addition, the study linking autism vaccination was thoroughly discredited in 2011, and its author has in fact lost his license to practice medicine.
In the last few days, Republican presidential hopefuls Chris Christie and Rand Paul have been heavily criticized after making comments about vaccination that raise questions about their fitness to preside over public health issues. Sen. Paul in particular repeated the same myth about "mental disorders" and vaccinations that was discredited years ago. Christie didn't offer up any bogus "facts" like Paul, but he did say that parents need "some measure of choice" in the decision to vaccinate children. And with a disease that the CDC had declared eradicated fifteen years ago cropping up around the country again, these were not considered good answers from anyone with presidential aspirations.
And yes, folks–it's a really bad time for Colorado Republicans to grandstand on the right of parents to not have their kids vaccinated. This bill doesn't change what is already a controversially lax vaccination policy in Colorado, but it does brand the campaign to uphold that "right" as a Republican platform plank.
All told, that could cost Republicans many more votes than it wins.