House Advances Bill to Boost Lowest in the Nation Immunization Rates for Children

DENVER, CO — The House today advanced SB20-163, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Representative Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn, and Representative Dylan Roberts, D-Avon as well as Senators Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, on second reading. The bill would boost Colorado’s childhood immunization rates.

“Vaccines are a crucial public health tool that has saved millions of lives throughout the course of history,” said Rep. Mullica, D-Northglenn. “Today we’re taking an important step towards improving our state’s vaccination rates to prevent the outbreak of preventable diseases like whooping cough and measles. By streamlining the immunization exemption process and improving our state’s low vaccination rates, we’ll be protecting vulnerable Coloradans like newborns, seniors, and the immunocompromised. As COVID-19 has taught us, an outbreak could happen at any moment and cripple our hospital capacity– there’s no time to waste.”

“This bill is a simple, reasonable step forward towards improving public health in Colorado while protecting parental choice,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon. “I’m proud of the work that has been done on this bill and I’m glad that we were able to move forward with it today. Improving our state’s low immunization rates will go a long way towards preventing a tragic outbreak of infectious disease among Colorado’s children.”

“Public health is about collective responsibility,” said Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora. “In order to protect our communities, we have to improve Colorado’s lowest-in-the-nation immunization rates for children. I am proud of this bill. As a member of the Black Caucus, I deplore any characterizations of this modest public health measure as anti-Black, and I completely repudiate those who have used this issue to sow discord and distrust in the Black community.” 

SB20-163 is designed to get more children fully vaccinated by the time they start kindergarten by encouraging those who do not vaccinate, but who have no objections to vaccinations, to immunize their children. 

The percentage of Colorado kindergartners vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella is the lowest rate in the country at 87 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This low rate makes our state particularly vulnerable to a measles outbreak. 

SB20-163 requires parents who choose not to vaccinate their children to present a standardized exemption form signed by an immunization provider or submit a confirmation form that they took a short online class about vaccinations before they send their children to school. The bill also streamlines the immunization exemptions categories by dividing them into medical and nonmedical exemptions, but makes no changes to who can choose to exempt their children or for what reasons. Lastly, SB20-163 would require all immunizing health care providers to use the state’s Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS) data system, though providers wouldn’t be subject to a regulatory sanction for noncompliance.