A bill that would reform and standardize the exemption requirements for immunizations required at schools will be up for its final reading in the Colorado House of Representatives Friday.
The bill creates a standardized exemption form and process for parents who do not want their children to be vaccinated. Exemptions could be made on the basis of religious beliefs, medical reasons or personal beliefs.
“We believe that parents–and this is a core value to home education–that parents should have the right to oversee the education, well-being, and health of their children,” said Stephen Craig, the executive director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado.
Thursday was also Homeschool Day at the Capitol. Craig’s organization put together a rally of hundreds of people from homeschool families where they talked about the importance of their choice and railed against some legislation that has either passed or is in the process of going through the state legislature.
The vaccination reform bill was one of the bills.
“All the exemptions are still in place,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica, a Democrat representing Northglenn. “That choice is still there. We’re just formalizing the process. There’s no mandating or forced vaccines whatsoever.”
Mullica said he and other elected representatives have been working on the bill to take in the input of parents. He said it was important to give parents the option of choice when they were creating it.
Mullica also cites Center for Disease Control data that says Colorado is the second-least vaccinated state when it comes to kindergartners, and the United States is in the worst measles epidemic in two decades.
“I think that the ultimate intention is obviously safety,” Mullica said. “That child is able to go to school in a safe manner without the risk of catching something that’s preventable and that can seriously harm them or kill them.”
Craig said it’s more about vaccinations, and while his parental control concerns still stand, he’s also concerned about the database that collects information on a student’s school, immunization status and, if applicable, exemption reason.
“It’s not the job of government to come in and mandate specific use of forms or tracking certain citizens in databases,” Craig said.
But, as is current state law, Mullica said parents can opt out of giving the state that information and make the data anonymous. That means the state would know the school where a non-immunized student is and what their reason is for not seeking an immunization, but the child’s information would not be entered into the data set.
“It would just be aggregate data if you chose to opt out, and that’s the way it was before,” Mullica said. “But, we made it explicitly clear in this bill as well.”
After hours of debate Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, Mullica said they added an amendment to the bill that would require the paper records to be destroyed after the information is put into the database.
House Bill 19-1312 is scheduled for a vote in the full house Friday, and will head to the full Senate if it passes.