Immunization | KUNC

Immunization

CDC / Unsplash

After a failed attempt last year, Colorado lawmakers have passed a bill that would make it harder to get a vaccine exemption for school children. 

National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

At a hearing last weekend about a Colorado bill on vaccination, Dr. Reginald Washington had originally planned to make several urgent points in support of the bill. 

First, that diseases like measles are resurging, and they’re serious. (He’d know. He’s treated patients with complications from measles and pertussis.) Second, due to COVID-19, children are missing well-child visits and skipping vaccinations, putting them at risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Allison M. Maiuri / CDC

Health officials are investigating an outbreak of mumps that started among employees of Keystone Resort in Colorado. Of the 19 cases identified so far, 18 of them are resort employees. 

“It’s not going to be surprising to see that number change as our investigation continues,” said Sara Lopez, nursing manager with Summit County Public Health, which identified the first three cases about a month ago. She said at this point it’s unclear how the one non-employee came down with the illness. 

CDC

At a public hearing last year in Boise, Idaho, recent transplant Alicia Peterson urged lawmakers not to tighten vaccine requirements. 

"I, this last year, ripped my whole family from the only home I've ever known, which was California, for these very reasons," Peterson said. "I left for health freedom."

According to the Idaho Statesman, Peterson isn't alone. An investigation by the newspaper found about two dozen others who said "they moved to Idaho because of the state's limited regulation—specifically, the ease of getting a vaccine exemption for schoolchildren."

Heather Hazzan / SELF Magazine

Researchers writing in the journal Science found that when kids get measles, it can cause “amnesia” in the immune system. 

In much of the Mountain West, measles vaccination rates are below the recommended 95% level.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This story was updated May 3, 2019 at 3:40 p.m.

Measles cases have reached a 19-year high in the U.S., but a bill in Colorado aimed at improving childhood vaccination rates didn’t succeed. It didn’t really fail, either. It just got mired in super-long hearings, pushback from the governor and, ultimately, a legislative schedule that ran out of time before the bill could reach the Senate.

“I’m still today trying to figure out exactly what happened,” says Rep. Kyle Mullica, who sponsored the bill.

Partha S. Sahana / Flickr

Up until this year, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) had immunization data on only 350 kindergartners. Now, the department maintains a database with the vaccine statuses of over 850,000 children in Colorado. A 2016 Colorado Board of Health rule requires all schools and child care facilities with 10 or more children to report immunization data directly to the state.

Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado DPHE, called his department’s program “one of the greatest preventative initiatives of this century.”