State Watch

Colorado governor says he won’t sign bill that aims to increase vaccination rates without key changes

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said this week that he won’t sign a bill that aims to increase childhood vaccination rates by decreasing non-medical vaccine exemptions without seeing some changes to the legislation.

The Colorado House bill would require parents who wish to have their children exempted from mandatory vaccines for non-medical reasons submit a form in-person to the state or local heath department, Colorado Public Radio (CPR) reported Friday. Forms are currently submitted directly to a school.

“Of course we don’t support things like requiring anyone to go in person and things like that,” Polis said.{mosads}

The Democrat deflected questions about signing the vaccine bill while attending a health care town hall hosted by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), according to CPR.

“We’re not fully there yet,” Polis told the crowd. “There’s still of course some changes that are going to be made to the bill.”

Colorado state Rep. Kyle Mullica (D), the bill’s sponsor, told the outlet that he does not expect any more changes because he has already compromised on several key provisions, removing them from the legislation.

Mullica, an emergency room nurse, initially planned to introduce a bill that would ban non-medical exemptions altogether in Colorado public schools, a push several states have moved to implement as measles outbreaks continue to tear through American communities with high rates of unvaccinated children.

“We need to take this issue seriously and God forbid if a child gets harmed because,  there’s an outbreak and you know, not only harm but potentially dies. I don’t want to look back and ask, ‘Well, could we have done more?’” Mullica said.

Polis defended his state’s vaccination exemptions during an interview with Hill.TV in March.

“It’s important that parents vaccinate their children, but you can’t do that at the point of a gun,” Polis said.

“When the government tries to force parents to do this, it creates distrust in both vaccinations and distrust in government,” added Polis, whose state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday reported 695 measles cases in 22 states this year.

“This is the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since measles was eliminated from this country in 2000,” said the agency in statement.

The outbreaks have largely been attributed to unvaccinated travelers who have exposed other unvaccinated people to the disease.

“Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease,” Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Wednesday.

“We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities. Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.”

Colorado currently has the lowest kindergarten vaccination rate for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) in the country, according to the CDC.

Tags CDC Center for Disease Control center for disease control and prevention Colorado Colorado Ed Perlmutter Jared Polis Jared Polis Measles outbreak MMR

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