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Colorado Vaccine Bill Includes Nonmedical Exemptions for Children


Quick Take

A Facebook meme falsely claims a Colorado bill is “removing exemptions” for parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children in order to attend school. The bill adds new requirements to opt out of vaccinations, but does offer medical and nonmedical exemptions for religious or personal beliefs.


Full Story

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 2 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., including more than 113,000 deaths, in mid-June, as state governments considered how to prevent the spread of the disease in schools once a vaccine is available.

The state House of Representatives in Colorado — where child vaccination rates are among the lowest in the nation — passed the School Entry Immunization Bill, SB20-163, on June 10. The bill, which returned to the Senate for another vote, is aimed at increasing vaccination rates, and it formalizes the process for receiving a nonmedical exemption for an immunization.

But a meme circulating on Facebook and other versions on social media claim the bill does not give parents any opportunity to avoid vaccinations for their children.

“My heart is with Colorado!” the meme reads. “They passed bill SB-163 removing exemptions for vaccines. Very horrendous bill. Students must take Flu, HPV AND COVID19 vaccine to attend school.” The HPV vaccine protects against cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers caused by human papillomavirus. 

That’s wrong on several counts.

First, the bill has not become law yet. As we noted, the current version must still be approved by the Colorado Senate and then be signed by the governor.

Also, the bill does not mention the HPV vaccine or the flu shot. It does not make any reference to COVID-19, and there is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, as we’ve reported.

It is also not true that the bill removes exemptions for vaccines or that “students must take” vaccines “to attend school.”

Colorado state law currently requires any student under 18 to submit a certificate of immunization, a doctor-certified medical exemption, or a statement of religious or personal belief that bars immunization.

The new bill makes no changes as to who can choose to exempt their children and does not take away the opportunity to claim an exemption based on “a religious belief whose teachings are opposed to immunizations or a personal belief that is opposed to immunizations.”

In cases where a student’s health would be harmed by an immunization, parents can seek a medical exemption signed by a physician, physical assistant, advanced practice nurse, or person authorized to administer immunizations to students.

The bill adds a new process for those seeking a nonmedical exemption due to religious or personal beliefs. It requires a parent, legal guardian, emancipated student, or student age 18 or older to submit a signed certificate of nonmedical exemption or a certificate of completion of an online education module — a state-produced video on vaccinations — administered by Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment.

The bill also sets a goal of 95% of the student population to be vaccinated and requires schools to publish their immunization and exemption rates for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Colorado currently has the lowest rate of immunization — 87.4% –in the country for the MMR vaccine, according to the CDC.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cases in the U.S. Accessed 12 Jun 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2009-10 through 2018-19 School Year Vaccination Coverage Trend Report.” Accessed 12 Jun 2020.

Colorado General Assembly. Senate Bill 20-163. Accessed 11 Jun 2020.

Colorado General Assembly. School Entry Immunization bill. Accessed 11 Jun 2020.

Miller, Blair and Meghan Lopez. “Colorado vaccine bill passes House, heads back to Senate for concurrence with amendment.” Denver 7. 10 Jun 2020.

“My heart is with Colorado! They passed bill SB-163 removing exemptions for vaccines. Very horrendous bill. Students must take Flu, HPV and COVID19 vaccine to attend school. Stay strong” Mujin Choi. Facebook post. 8 Jun 2020.

Nieberg, Patty. “Colorado House OKs bill to increase low vaccination rates.” Associated Press. 10 Jun 2020.