Colorado ranks last in kindergarten immunizations

(Apr. 16) The House Health and Insurance committee approved Rep. Kyle Mullica’s bipartisan bill to address Colorado’s low vaccination rates. Higher vaccination rates decrease the risk of outbreaks of preventable contagious and deadly diseases.

“This is about keeping Colorado’s kids safe. We need to be proactive, not reactive. We are in the midst of public health crisis and we can’t wait for a tragedy to occur,” said Rep. Mullica, D-Northglenn. “Experts believe this option will help improve Colorado’s dismal and dangerous immunization rates. I thank everyone who came to the state capitol today to make their voices heard.”

Rep. Mullica is a trained trauma nurse by profession.

Here’s what HB19-1312 does:

  • Creates a standardized exemption form and requires all exemptions be submitted to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) or the local public health agency. Non-medical exemptions must be submitted in person to the CDPHE or local health agency; subsequent renewals can be submitted in person or online.
  • Directs CDPHE to include immunization exemption information in its annual presentation to the General Assembly.
  • Directs CDPHE to develop educational materials for health agencies and schools addressing the medical benefits of immunizations.
  • Gives the Board of Health authority to determine school-required immunizations, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This bipartisan bill strengthens Colorado’s vaccination exemption process by incorporating strategies known to increase vaccination rates without removing personal or religious exemptions.

Colorado is seeing an increase in vaccine preventable diseases that are endangering public health. According to a recent report, Coloradans paid $55 million on childhood diseases that vaccinations could have prevented in 2017 alone.

Medical experts testified in support of the commonsense legislation.

Public health and medical experts have raised serious concerns about Colorado’s low vaccination rate. Contagious disease outbreaks are happening around the country. Most recently in Washington state and New York state.

According to the CDC, less than 89 percent of kindergarten-aged children in Colorado have received vaccines for diseases like measles, mumps and rubella. Colorado ranks last in country in this category. That’s below the national average of 94.3 percent and below the level considered ideal for reaching “herd immunity,” the percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated to avoid a big outbreak and protect those with compromised or vulnerable immune systems. Herd immunity is essential to protect the vulnerable including newborn babies, seniors and people living with ongoing medical issues.

The Senate co-prime sponsors are Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson and Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver.

The bill passed by a vote of 7-4. It now heads to the House floor.

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