March 24, 2014 Updated: March 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm
DENVER — A measure to clamp down on vaccine exemptions passed the state House Monday after a somber debate on parental rights.
The bill, which passed 42-19, makes it harder for parents to claim personal objections to vaccines before enrolling their kids in schools or daycare. It would require parents seeking the exemption to undergo vaccine education, either through a video or by consulting with a physician.
Religious and medical vaccine exemptions would not be affected. Sponsors of the bill say it's too easy to opt out of mandatory vaccines, leading to Colorado having a low vaccination rate relative to other states. Outbreaks of whooping cough and measles have been attributed in part to low vaccination rates.
Parents who avoid vaccines affect not just their children but "the health of tens of thousands of other people," argued the bill sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver.
"This bill ensures parent choice, it just makes sure that choice is informed," Pabon said.
Opponents insist that Colorado's low vaccination rate is due not to ignorance but to genuine skepticism about vaccine efficacy.
"They know exactly what they're doing and they know what the risks are," said Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono.
The somber debate did not break down purely on partisan lines. Several Republicans supported the bill.
Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen pointed out that Abigail Adams and Benjamin Franklin had their children and grandchildren vaccinated.
"I actually believe in science. Whatever I can do to protect children is part of my job here," Gerou said.
The bill now awaits consideration in the state Senate.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt
House Bill 1288: http://bit.ly/OS083d