Friday, April 11, 2014

Don't Let Anti-Vaccine Movement Sink Colorado Bill

Editor's Note: I made a mistake in my initial post--Colorado is not trying to eliminate personal belief exemptions (I wish)--the bill simply adds an educational component. 

We need your help.

Colorado is trying to strengthen immunization rules by adding an educational component to personal belief exemptions. These exemptions are the manner in which anti-vaccine parents can opt-out of vaccines and still enroll their children in schools and day care facilities, putting children and vulnerable members of our community at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. We've seen the result of these exemptions: measles outbreaks, mumps outbreaks, devastating pertussis outbreaks that have killed infants.

And while support for the measure is strong in Colorado's House, its Senate is less likely to pass the bill, titled HB 1288, "Strengthening Personal Belief Exemptions for Immunization Requirements."
Part of the reason is because legislators are being deluged by phone calls and e-mails from anti-vaccine activists, purporting to represent parents. What's more, they are framing this debate as one over personal liberty. Missing from their arguments is the idea that with personal liberty comes personal responsibility, something anti-vaxxers do not exercise, and which is harming public health and the communities in which they live. Unfortunately, it turns out that several state legislators have bought into this personal liberty argument--and with the majority of the calls and e-mails they are receiving being from anti-vaxxers, they are more and more likely to vote against this important bill. 

Let's help. One approach is to talk about recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease and how lack of immunization has lead to needless suffering. Another approach is to take apart the personal liberty argument that the anti-vaxxers are now using to stop this bill. Where does personal liberty bump up against the needs of the community--the anti-vaxxers want the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. 

The Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee will vote on the bill on Monday.

Once passed by this Committee, as is likely, the bill will be considered by the full Senate. It here that the bill looks to be in trouble, when it reaches the full Senate. 

This is where you come in. Please contact Colorado Senators as soon as possible to urge them to support House Bill 1288. Here is the CO general assembly senate directory:  Colorado General Assembly Senate Directory

Because the majority of calls and e-mails right now are angry anti-vaxxers, all Senators, even the ones who look like they will vote yes, need to hear from you. Encouragement for those likely to vote yes, reasoned and compelling (and personal) words for those likely to vote no. Here is the list of senators we believe are most in need of a call or e-mail.

Senator Cheri Jahn (D); Cap: 303-866-4856 E-mail:
Senator John Kafalas (D) Cap: 303-866-4841; E-mail:
Senator Mary Hodge (D): Cap: 303-866-4855; E-mail:
Senator Jeanne Nicholson(D): 303-866-4873 E-mail:
Senator Ellen Roberts (R)Cap: 303-866-4884 E-mail:
Senator Bernie Herpin (R)Cap: 303-866-6364; E-mail:
Senator Steve King (R) Cap: 303-866-3077; E-mail:
Senator David Balmer (R) Cap: 303-866-4883 E-mail:

If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie Wasserman, Executive Director of The Colorado Children's Immunization Coalition at   

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