Week 14: The Vaccine Debate
What's the hap at the cap? Legislative updates from March 30 - April 13
By Susan Baughman, Policy and Research Intern
April 13, 2017
Youth health and sexual freedom got the attention of both the Senate and the House in these last couple weeks. On Tuesday, both sexting bills were heard by the House Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 17-1064, “Misuse of Electronic Images by a Juvenile” and House Bill 17-1302, “Juvenile Sexting Crime” both attempt to address the sharing of sexually explicit images among youth, but in very different ways. HB17-1064 criminalizes all sexting, both consensual and non-consensual, making it a Class 2 misdemeanor. HB17-1302 only criminalizes non-consensual sexting, leaving room for restorative justice and education as responses to sexting behavior. Testimony on both bills were heard simultaneously on Tuesday with no vote. Representative Willet [R- Delta, Mesa] and Senator Fields [D- Arapahoe], sponsors of House Bill 1064, asked that no vote take place so they can work with Representative Lee [D-El Paso], sponsor of House Bill 1302, to reach a compromise.
Senate Bill 17-250, “Student Exemption From Immunization Requirements,” was introduced on March 16th and was heard yesterday. This bill spurs the ongoing Colorado vaccination debate. Senate BIll 250 is sponsored by Senator Tom Neville [R- Boulder, Denver, Gilpin, Jefferson], Senator Vicki Marble [R- Broomfield, Larimer, Weld], Representative Patrick Neville [R- Douglas], and Representative Steve Lebsock [D- Adams]. If passed, this bill would make it even easier for students to be exempt from vaccines and immunizations required by schools. As Colorado has been one of the states with the lowest immunization rates in the entire country, this bill certaintly will not help.
Research on the benefits of vaccines is vast. Countless studies assert that vaccines contribute to healthier communities, as they lower the risk of contracting serious - and sometimes deadly - diseases like whooping cough, measles, mumps, tetanus, among many others. The common anti-vaccine argument that immunizations impose high health risks, such as causing autism, has been debunked by numerous credible organizations and scientists.
Despite the overwhelming evidence in favor of vaccines, many Colorado kids are still not getting vaccinated. A recent report found that less than 50% of children have up-to-date immunizations in 17 Colorado counties. The low rate of vaccination in rural areas of Colorado could be related to lack of access, but the report asserts that there are still low rates in urban areas. For example, Boulder has one of the lowest vaccine rates in Colorado and also has one of the highest school vaccine exemption rates; Senate Bill 250 is likely to make these rates even worse. This same report also shows how much money the lack of immunizations is costing Colorado. 472 Colorado children were hospitalized in 2015 from vaccine-preventable diseases, which produced approximately $35 million in hospital charges. With mumps cases “booming” in Colorado, we need to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.
Another concern is the rise of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published an important new study on the high infection rates of HPV. They have predicted that almost all sexually active men and women will get some type of HPV in their lifetime. While not all HPV infections result in cancer, the number of individuals diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer are on the rise. The CDC is strongly suggesting that all youth aged 11 and 12 get vaccinated. Senate Bill 250 is very worrisome, as it will make it easier for parents to opt out of getting their children vaccinated against risky diseases and viruses like HPV.
Colorado Youth Matter is committed to evidence-based healthcare, and vaccines are just that. The more we can encourage our youth to get vaccinated, the better protected they are for years to come. If you feel as strongly about this as we do, please contact your representative ((303) 866-2904) and tell them to vote “no” on Senate Bill 250.
Here are some other quick updates:
- Senate Bill 17-061, “Additional Funding Charter School Operating Costs,” which will require school districts to increase funding for charter schools, passed the third reading in the Senate and will now go to the House. A hearing date has not yet been set.
- House Bill 1127, “Exempt Feminine Hygiene Products From Sales Tax,” has no updates, as no hearing date has yet been set. This bill would make menstrual products less financially burdensome.
That’s it for this week’s Hap at the Cap! We will be back on April 27th. Remember, keep in contact with your representatives and your voice will get heard!