AP reports via the Greeley Tribune on the death yesterday of House Bill 16-1164, which would have given the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment control of the state’s system of documenting self-claimed exemptions from childhood immunization guidelines:
The state House backed off the proposed database Monday, when it was scheduled for a vote. The legislative maneuver means the database proposal is dead for the year.
Democratic sponsors had enough support to steer the database through the House. But the proposal faced certain death in the GOP Senate, where some Republicans complain the state Health Department has already overreached by contacting parents about their children’s immunizations. [Pols emphasis]
“The public health of Colorado was not enough to convince opponents of the bill,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, a Denver Democrat who proposed the database. “The politics around the ‘I word,’ or immunizations, just got to be too intense.”
Colorado law on childhood vaccinations is among the most lenient of any state in America. Parents are allowed to claim an “exemption” from school immunization requirements for any personal reason they choose, beyond more common exemptions granted elsewhere for religious or other specific objections. This bill wouldn’t have changed that, simply centralizing the gathering of the information so as to better understand why the state has one of the lowest rates of vaccinations in the nation.
The failure of the vaccine database bill makes Colorado one of only three states with no central tracking of childhood immunizations, Pabon said. [Pols emphasis]
In short, this was a battle between public health experts defending science, and politicians protecting those who reject or at least question the science behind vaccines in public health policy.
“It has to do with what authority the state has over parents” who object to vaccines, said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “A lot of parents don’t disagree necessarily with all vaccinations. But they do disagree with the volume and schedule of vaccinations.”
In 2015, legislation that would have made it even easier for parents to “exempt” their children from vaccines and attend public school failed against the backdrop of outbreaks of measles and other diseases preventable by vaccination. The issue hasn’t been in the headlines to the same degree in 2016, but the passion on both sides of this issue is never more than one headline away.
With that said, the political consequences of being on the wrong side of this fundamental public health issue appear very serious to us. Polls show the overwhelming majority of the public supports vaccination of school-age children, with almost 80% saying vaccination should be mandatory for healthy kids.
Worth keeping in mind when Republicans celebrate how they “protected” our “right” to not vaccinate our kids.