Long: SB17-250 would have clarified vaccine exemption policy for Colorado schools, parents

Author: Pam Long - April 26, 2017 - Updated: April 25, 2017

Pam Long
Pam Long

The vaccine wars opened up again in Colorado April 13, 2017, with the hearing of Senate Bill 17-250 in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Since 2011, there has been an annual attempt to “strengthen” vaccine exemption policy in Colorado, an expression for making it more difficult for parents to exercise their lawful rights to exempt their child from any or all vaccines recommended for school registration.[1]

But this year, with SB17-250, there was a change in direction on this issue. This bill aimed to clarify an existing statute (C.R.S. 25-4-903) that has been in place since 1978. The law states that all that is required for a parent to exercise a lawful vaccine exemption for their child to attend school is to submit a statement of exemption to the school. In 2016, CDPHE attempted to “strengthen” vaccine exemption policy by creating an official state exemption form to be submitted online to the state tracking database known as the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS). This form required an unprecedented amount of personally identifying information (PII), including the student’s address. Many lawmakers found this data collection too intrusive, and HB16-1164, a bill to transfer these additional immunization exemption duties to CDPHE, died in the House. Nonetheless, CDPHE implemented the form in June 2016 without legislative authority, claiming that administrative powers gave them the authority to make substantive changes to longstanding statute, such as changing a written document to an online form for inclusion in a state database, and changing the collection agency from the local school to a state agency.

Lawyers from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Colorado Coalition for Vaccine Choice (CCVC) protested the lack of rule making process necessary to implement the form. The form requires an exempting parent to agree with a statement saying they are putting their child at risk for vaccine preventable diseases. They argue that this “compelled speech” is not balanced with any citations of the risks of contraindications and adverse reactions from vaccines. Parents argue that CDPHE is interfering with the doctor-patient relationship that is best suited to make vaccine decisions for each child’s unique health history, and the form language equates to confession of child abuse. Parents emphasize that schools operate under local control, and CDPHE has no authority in statute to collect PII from students.

Lawmakers are caught in the tension of the need to protect parental rights to make decisions for their children, and also the requirement to protect the public health. Public health advocates claim that vaccine exemptions put the herd at risk for potential outbreaks. Colorado public health authorities use mathematical models to project hypothetical costs of potential outbreaks. And parents worry about the cumulative effect of the current 70-dose vaccine schedule[2], with 6,150 mcg of IQ-lowering aluminum adjuvants.[3] So what does real data show for outcomes for children on the current schedule? There are zero research studies at the U.S. National Library of Medicine database on the cumulative effects of 70 vaccine doses and cognitive abilities.

The tables below compare 15 schools in Colorado who have the highest vaccine exemption rates and 15 schools who have a zero exemption rate, and their corresponding reading proficiency scores. The data show that the schools with the highest vaccine exemption rates average an 85 percent reading proficiency and schools with zero vaccine exemptions average a 47 percent reading proficiency.

Table showing vaccine exemption data

Table showing the lowest vaccine exemption schools in Colorado

Affluence is likely a co-factor in these differences, but this profound disparity in outcomes is worthy of attention. This data refutes accusations that parents who use vaccine exemptions are irresponsible or uneducated. Student populations with one or more exemptions are excelling academically over fully vaccinated students. Until we get a better understanding of these differences in outcomes that are worthy of investigation, bills like SB17-250 should be seriously considered. This bill was a simple measure that aimed to provide clarity in existing statute outlining parent’s legal requirements should they wish to exercise a vaccine exemption.

SB17-250 passed the Senate Health Committee 3-1, with a majority of witnesses in support. However, the bill failed to pass the Senate floor vote on April 19, when Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, a self-proclaimed “germophobe,” broke away from party lines against the Republican majority and voted against the bill. As an Army veteran who has been fully vaccinated for worldwide deployment with 28 vaccine doses during my life, I think parents of developing children have good reason to take caution and be selective with the current vaccine schedule of 70 doses.

Data notes:

  1. Homeschool Cooperatives were not included in the High Exemption Rate Schools Group.
  2. Special Education schools were not included in the Zero Exemption Schools Group.
  3. Of the 37 Colorado schools with zero exemptions, the 15 selected for this data comparison had 92 percent or higher reporting compliance rates indicating more accurate data.
  4. Exemption Rate Data Source: http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2015/02/09/immunization-database/
  5. Reading Proficiency Rate Data Source: https://edx.cde.state.co.us/SchoolView/DataCenter/reports.jspx?_adf_ctrl-state=pac20phbp_4&_afrWindowMode=0&_afrLoop=3400300698866455&_adf.ctrl-state=6w5veoi98_4

[1] http://www.cuanschutztoday.org/states-can-lower-risk-measles-outbreak-strengthening-exemption-policies/

[2] https://www.nvic.org/CMSTemplates/NVIC/pdf/49-Doses-PosterB.PDF

[3] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/03/31/aluminum-vaccines.aspx

Pam Long

Pam Long is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, and a former Army Medical Service Corps Officer where she worked in emergency medical treatment in peacekeeping task forces and commanded a medevac headquarters company. She holds a board certification in behavioral psychology. She currently consults with health advocacy groups at the local and state level.


  • Kathy Sincere

    April 26, 2017 at 8:55 am

    The failure of SB17-250 to pass into law is a sad commentary on the lack of support for transparency and accountability at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    CDPHE needs to disqualify themselves as investigators regarding vaccine exemption policy since they get federal funds for every fully vaccinated child in this State. They definitely have a conflict of interest, especially in regard to their lobbying efforts since 2011 to restrict/remove exemptions.

    I would like to see our best and brightest at Colorado universities further investigate vaccine exemption data. Independent researchers with no ties to pharma could provide real data on outcomes, perhaps eliminating the scare tactics of the CDC and CDPHE on hypothetical outbreaks.

    An enlightening article on why parents need truth, transparency and accountability from public health officials and the medical community:


    This is why Colorado ABSOLUTELY needs to preserve and RESPECT vaccine exemptions. Medical, personal belief and religious exemptions are basic civil and human rights. “Herd Immunity” from vaccination is a fallacy. Only acquired natural immunity is effective and lasts a lifetime. We cannot trust public health officials (CDPHE) or the medical community with the Truth regarding vaccination data and the health of our children.

  • Jennifer Martin

    April 26, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you, Pam for your words on this subject. I always appreciate your factually accurate work on our Colorado vaccine policies and approach. I completely agree with Ms. K. Sincere’s response to the outcome of SB17-250 – it is a sad outcome on the accountability of CDPHE, a public health group/outfit that I have learned I cannot trust.

  • Sean G

    April 27, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Cute anti-vax propaganda trying to make itself look like a serious article. The fake news sites you listed at the end though are a dead giveaway. Scaring parents away from life-saving immunizations is completely unethical and you should be ashamed of yourself. You cherry-picked everything from your charts to completely misrepresent the data and to mislead the public. I took a few hours and parsed out the data myself, enjoy. I’ve also sent a complaint and I’m crossing my fingers that you aren’t related to the operators of this site. https://drive.google.com/open?id=10MIOb0Fr6zMT2cRTf_qsttROCOYK8qwd1Lvb8AcnfeE

  • Sean G.

    April 27, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    This article is completely devoid of accurate information and contains dangerous misinformation that could lead to someone getting hurt or killed by refusing immunizations. I’m seeing links to NVIC, Mercola, and Age of Autism, which are all exploitative cons that put people at risk every day. I spent a few hours parsing over the CSAP/TCAP test results and while the numbers are (mostly) accurate on your charts, they’re totally cherry-picked and completely ignore thousands of student tests that completely refute this. Here ya’ go. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/10MIOb0Fr6zMT2cRTf_qsttROCOYK8qwd1Lvb8AcnfeE/edit?usp=sharing

    • Phil Silberman

      May 3, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      are you saying that the highest exempting schools are not also those schools with some of the highest achieving students? All Ms Long did was compare two sets of data.

  • Mark Wax

    April 28, 2017 at 5:53 am

    “Vaccines Are Unavoidably Unsafe”
    Don’t take my word for it. These are the words of Justice Scalia in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, LLC in a Supreme Court decision in 2011. Unfortunately, due to the protections afforded the vaccine maker in the National Childhood Vaccine Act of 1986, the Court ruled against a vaccine injured plaintiff in the case. How?

    In the 1980s, children were having adverse reactions to the DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine. Lots of lawsuits were being filed against docs and vaccine manufacturers. This caused the pharmaceutical industry to threaten pulling out of the vaccine market, and the alarm bells rang that the nation’s health and safety were at risk. Why were vaccine manufacturers getting ready to take their ball and go home? Because vaccines fall into a class of products considered “unavoidably unsafe.” I am not kidding you. This “unavoidable” word comes from the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act itself “products which, in the present state of human knowledge, are quite incapable of being made safe.”

    In 1986, Congress decided on a way to compensate folks for these avoidable injuries and death. It is called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. From 2001 until 2011 the program has compensated about 2500 families a total of $2 billion. There has been close to $4 billion paid to date since inception. But, that represents only a small fraction of those who actually brought claims to the Vaccine Court. You see, there is a 36 month window to bring the claim. There is no “tolling” granted for minors, unlike all the Civil Courts in the U.S. Guess what? Neurological injuries may not present in infants for long after 36 months. Furthermore, who knows how many cases were never brought by attorneys on behalf of a vaccine injured child, because the statute of limitations ran out?

    Don’t let anyone tell you that vaccines don’t cause injury. They have, they do and they will do so in the future. For years, Thimerosal was used as a preservative in multi-dose vials. While still proclaiming it “safe”, vaccine makers “voluntarily” removed Thimerosal. It is still present in trace amounts and in flu vaccine. Thimerosal was never approved by the FDA, as the patents predated the establishment of said regulations. Worried?

    With nearly 6,000 cases pending the USCFC held the “Omnibus Autism Hearings.” They decided not to make “autism” a “table injury.” How convenient. Since there would never be enough money to pay for all who claim an “autism” injury. But, there have been many cases compensated for “encephalopathy” as a diagnosis with reference to autism. You can read it: http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1681&context=pelr

    For the record, I am not “anti-vaccine.” Both of my children were fully vaccinated. Unfortunately for us, our son was neurologically disabled by vaccines. It is indisputable, yet the government and the vaccine makers still think that there is a “greater good” to be served. They may be right. But, let’s not fool ourselves. Vaccines can be made safer. It is about money.

    • Kathy Sincere

      April 28, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      Thank you, Mark. Well stated. Where there is risk, there must be choice.

      “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” – George Orwell

      Ms. Long speaks the truth.

  • Pam Long

    April 28, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Sean G re: propaganda, fake, scaring, unethical, ashamed, misrepresent, mislead, complaint, dangerous, hurt or killed, cons, exploitive, risks–

    “The language of astroturfers and propagandists includes trademark inflammatory terms such as: anti, nutty, quack, crank, pseudo-science, debunking, conspiracy theory, deniers and junk science. Sometimes astroturfers claim to “debunk myths” that aren’t myths at all. They declare debates over that aren’t over. They claim that “everybody agrees” when everyone doesn’t agree. They aim to make you think you’re an outlier when you’re not.” Sharyl Attkisson

    • Robert Graf

      May 16, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Yes, the usual fallacious tactics. First, the ad hominem, and then the appeal to authority. You just left out their next tactic, which is misrepresenting the other side of the argument, known as a ‘straw man’ No objective basis. No evidence. Mistaking correlation for causality. Appeal to fear.

  • Andrew Gardner

    May 16, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    So nice to be able to read a sane voice that isn’t bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical industry. Thank you Statesman!

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