The Colorado Senate heard testimony Tuesday regarding proposed legislation that would add an extra step for parents who want to opt their children out of being vaccinated.
Parents and doctors represented both sides of the contentious vaccine debate, which has been raging nationwide for years, to lawmakers in the state’s capital.
The bill would not take away a parent’s right to opt out, but would require them to take a course online about the benefits and risks of immunization. It also requires a health department or agency representative to sign off that the parent, guardian or student has been informed about the benefits and risks of vaccines.
“We know it doesn’t take away our right not to vaccinate. We know already that’s not an issue,” Fran Sincere, an opponent of the bill, told KDVR. But “should I be forced to be brainwashed every year?”
Kathy Sincere, Fran Sincere’s wife, told the news station that she thinks this could be the “first step to restrict personal exemption.”
“Then, they’ll pass another bill in a year or two, to take away the personal exemption,” she said.
The bill has already passed in the House — 42-19 — with bipartisan support and is expected to pass in the Senate, according to KDVR. The law would go into effect in July unless vetoed by the governor.
State Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver), a sponsor of the bill, said it “balances rights by simply adopting a requirement that parents receive credible information before exempting their children from immunization requirements,” the Denver Post reported.
Several parents who believe vaccines have harmed their children showed up to speak with lawmakers Tuesday.
One popular theory for those who are against vaccination is that it leads to autism, but a recent study linked the disorder to prenatal development, which essentially debunks a connection to immunization, according to Eric Courchesne, an autism researcher at the University of California, San Diego.
Parents who support vaccination also think the growing number of people who aren’t immunized is concerning as well.
“This is something that can be very scary to me,” Sundari Kraft, a mother, told KDVR.
Watch the news station’s report about the latest movement on the bill:
The bill in Colorado echoes a larger conversation about the safety of vaccines, which has been called into question by concerned parents even more in recent years. Health officials, on the other hand, say that thanks to a lack of vaccination, diseases that once disappeared are making a comeback.
Measles, for example, was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, but by 2013 there were 189 reported cases. Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 115 cases have been reported nationwide in just the first few months of 2014.
On its website, the CDC states that it is important to continue immunizing unless a disease is entirely eliminated. An instance where this has occurred is with smallpox. Vaccination in the stopped in 1972 when the disease was eradicated in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, the last known case of smallpox in the world was reported in 1977 in Somalia.
“Even if there are only a few cases of disease today, if we take away the protection given by vaccination, more and more people will be infected and will spread disease to others. Soon we will undo the progress we have made over the years,” the CDC’s website stated.
In terms of vaccine safety, the CDC says that even beyond licensing of a vaccine, it continues to monitor vaccine safety. If a health issue associated with a vaccine is identified, it is no longer given to the public.
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