The assertion by Dr. Edwin J. Asturias in The Colorado Sun that the minority of parents using school vaccine exemptions were only being asked to make a “small effort” is misleading.
Parental efforts were already increased with the passage of HB-1288 in 2014, which also provided the health department with the vaccination coverage and exemption data now published on their website.
However, politics definitely came into play, and passage of HB-1312 would have set a dangerous and discriminatory precedent.
This bill stripped a minority of students of their federal privacy rights conferred by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and had the health department signing off on personal and religious beliefs prior to granting an exemption.
By contrast, children vaccinated according to state requirements would retain federal privacy rights, and not have their personal and religious beliefs subject to approval by the health department.
It also prevented doctors from exercising their professional judgment when issuing medical exemptions, required reporting these exemptions to Colorado’s vaccine registry, and interfered with the doctor-patient relationship.
HB-1312 also narrowed medical exemption criteria in a manner that ignored Institute of Medicine findings that genetic, environmental and individual susceptibilities are likely to play a role in vaccine injury and death that cannot be known prior to vaccination.
Notably, the health department’s school vaccine coverage and exemption data shows that the number students who are in process, or have incomplete or no vaccine records often exceeds the number of students with exemptions.
It also confirms what the CDC noted in its 2018 vaccine coverage report — when schools follow up with families to collect student vaccine information coverage rates improve. The health department’s data also shows that when schools follow up, exemption rates decline.
In addition, the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier clarified the CDC’s 2018 report and said that with regard to increases in exemptions, “Parental choice may play some role, but CDC’s data really suggests that many of these parents do want to vaccinate their children, but they may not be able to get vaccines for them.”
State Rep. Kyle Mullica was made aware of Colorado’s data and the CDC’s 2018 report and report clarifications prior to the bill’s introduction. Instead of addressing potential vaccine access issues and schools meeting their statutory collection obligations, exemption rights and the privacy of a minority of families were attacked for a third time since 2013.
These continued attacks should give every member of society pause.
There is no debate that vaccines are pharmaceutical products acknowledged by science and our government as causing injury and death.
The only debate is how often and who is at risk. However, there is no risk-free option, and often no way in advance to identify who is at risk for complications, injuries and deaths from diseases and vaccines. That is why there must always be the ability to choose what risk one is willing to take for themselves and their child.
The parents and doctors testifying and advocating against HB-1312 understood that the overarching issues were human and civil rights and the exercise of informed consent. The continued ethical practice of medicine relies on the upholding of the informed consent ethic, and its requirement of voluntary consent to medical treatments and interventions without sanction or coercion.
Colorado’s laws already provide the health department with vaccine coverage and exemption data, as well as the ability to manage potential outbreaks and epidemics. Importantly, existing laws and processes also provide all students with equal privacy rights, freedom of expression and religion, and a standardized student enrollment process.
Clearly, Colorado has a records collection problem and potential vaccine access issue, not a pubic health crisis. Citizens would be better served by state agencies discharging their existing statutory obligations and identifying and resolving vaccine access issues.
The continued attack on the rights of a minority will not change minds, or build confidence in vaccines and the agencies attempting to mandate their use.
The politics at play and gamble afoot is the erosion of privacy, parental rights, autonomy, and human and civil rights.
Theresa Wrangham is a Colorado resident and the Executive Director for the National Vaccine Information Center, which advocates against vaccine mandates without flexible exemptions.