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The claim: Colorado bill mandates all students be vaccinated with no exemptions
In an attempt to raise Colorado’s low vaccination rate, state legislators have passed Senate Bill 163, known as the School Entry Immunization Bill. Online misinformation about how the new legislation may affect those who oppose vaccinating their children is sparking confusion.
“Mandatory vaccines with no exemptions. Mandatory flu shots? Hah. Yea, no thanks. I legit thought the news about Colorado’s new vaccine bill was fake. Nope. It’s real,” virtual community Barefoot Five posted June 10 on Facebook.
Barefoot Five’s Facebook page has more than 1.1 million followers, and its post received thousands of reactions, shares and comments.
Some commenters expressed their frustration with the Colorado legislature, while others researched Barefoot Five’s claim.
“I’m not anti vax either but I believe in the freedom of choice,” Kelli Stevens wrote.
“Uh this is a pretty mild bill. They just have to get a note signed by their doctor n (sic) an official form…” Sarah Bruce commented and provided a screenshot of a Colorado Sun article.
Bruce was correct. Senate Bill 163 does not make immunization exemptions in Colorado a thing of the past, rather it changes the process by which parents and guardians can obtain them.
Similar claims about how the bill will affect families’ choice to vaccinate their children have been debunked by FactCheck.org.
Barefoot Five has not returned USA TODAY’s request for comment.
The bill calls for new exemption procedures
Under Colorado’s current law, students must annually provide school districts with vaccination records, proof of medical exemption or a statement of nonmedical exemption. This statement of nonmedical exemption from parents and guardians must explain their reasoning based on personal or religious beliefs.
Senate Bill 163 still allows for nonmedical exemptions. It requires families to fill out a standardized form and follow a submission process to claim them.
Parents or guardians who want an immunization exemption can either submit a certificate of medical exemption with a medical professional’s signature, a nonmedical exemption certificate with a medical professional’s signature or a completion certificate from the state’s online module, the bill’s summary states.
The bill calls for the state’s Department of Education and Department of Human Services to update a standardized form with details on immunizations requirements annually. The requirements will be based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendations.
Senate Bill 163 also requires every school publish its immunization and exemption rates for measles, mumps and rubella to students, parents and guardians each year.
If the bill becomes law, a state immunization tracking system will collect data on who has received the required vaccines and who’s been exempt.
Political compromise exempts home-schooled children
After days of debate on the bill, a sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kyle Mullica, proposed a “petition clause” on June 9 in hopes of reaching a compromise. Mullica is a Democrat and trauma nurse.
The petition clause would’ve given opponents of the bill until Sept. 12 to collect 124,000 signatures. If the petition were successful, the bill would not have gone into effect until voters decided whether to accept or reject it on their November 2022 ballots.
However, on June 13, proponents and opponents reached another last-minute deal, stripping the petition clause from the bill before sending it to Gov. Jared Polis.
In exchange for stripping the clause, Democrats agreed to exempt home-schooled children from the new requirements.
Colorado vaccinations rates among lowest in the country
The CDC reports Colorado had the country’s lowest 2018-19 kindergarten vaccination rates, with 87.4% of children vaccinated.
“Being last in the country for our immunization rates was never acceptable,” Mullica said. “Senate Bill 163 will improve those rates, making our communities safer and I’m excited to see it become law.”
Senate Bill 163 seeks to bring Colorado’s immunization rate to 95% every school year.
The bill was passed by the Colorado Senate in February and the House in June. Polis said he plans to sign the bill, at which point it will become law.
“My administration has been working diligently to increase our vaccination rates,” Gov. Polis wrote in a June 8 letter requesting CDC assistance for the next flu season.
Our ruling: False
We rate the claim that a new Colorado bill mandates all students be vaccinated without exemption FALSE because it is not supported by our research. Parents or guardians who oppose vaccinating their child due to religious or personal beliefs may obtain an exemption. The bill changes that procedure so those responsible adults must complete an online module or provide a certificate of nonmedical exemption signed by a medical professional.
Our fact-check sources:
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Colorado bill doesn’t mandate vaccines without exemptions