Mon February 24, 2014
Personal Belief Exemption

Exempting Kids From Shots May Require More Education For Parents

Credit Grace Hood / KUNC

Colorado health officials want more kids to be immunized for routine medical conditions such as measles and whooping cough.

House bill 1288 would require parents to receive medical information, either from a medical professional or by completing an online course about immunization benefits and risks before they could sign a personal belief exception.

Colorado has the 6th highest rate of immunization exemption in the U.S.

Colorado is one of a minority of states that have a personal belief exemption, which gives parents the flexibility to opt out of vaccinating their children for philosophical reasons.

“[The bill] simply requires parents to demonstrate that they are making well informed choices by submitting either a healthcare provider’s signature or alternatively they can get a certificate of completion from an education module,” said Executive Director of Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition Stephanie Wasserman.

Personal belief exemptions account for 94% of all exemptions in the state.
Credit The Keystone Center / Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Colorado’s personal belief exemption is one of three ways parents can keep their child from being vaccinated. The other two are medical, which requires the signature of a physician, and religious, which like Colorado’s current personal belief exemption only requires the signature of a parent or guardian.

Personal belief exemptions are the primary reason for exemption from recommended vaccines and accounted for more than 90 percent of all exemptions among Colorado kindergarteners from 2003 to 2012.

According to a report released last December by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in states like Colorado where a parental signature alone is sufficient to claim an exemption, the incidence of whooping cough or pertussis, is 41 percent higher than in states with more restrictive exemption requirements.

Supporters of the current system say parents who chose not to vaccinate have generally done their own research.

The bill is expected to be heard by lawmakers in March.

Credit The Keystone Center / Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment