Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who opposed legislation earlier this year that would have made it harder for parents to get vaccination exemptions for their children to attend public school, announced administrative steps Thursday morning aimed at boosting the state’s low vaccination rate.
The measures include developing standardized exemption forms, better aligning state immunization practices with national best practices and developing a public health education program to increase immunizations.
Polis described it as a “third way” to approach the controversial vaccination issue — a way that uses education and outreach to encourage more vaccinating rather than forcing it.
Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, who sponsored the vaccination bill, said it’s important to take action now to prepare for a possible outbreak in six to nine months.
More than 1,000 measles cases were reported in 28 states in the first half of 2019, the highest number in nearly three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes one case in Colorado.
“It’s a good step,” Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn, another bill sponsor, said of Polis’ action. “It’s not the only step, but it’s a good step.”
Fewer than 90 percent of Colorado kindergarteners were vaccinated in the 2017-18 school year — one of the lowest rates in the nation. Experts say it makes the state vulnerable to an outbreak.
The legislation that died in the Senate this spring would have required parents to go to a state health office and fill out a form to request an exemption from vaccine requirements to attend public schools. Right now parents can simply give the school a note.
Priola said he will reintroduce legislation in 2020.