Colorado health agencies are worried about Gov. Jared Polis’ proposal for mandatory booster vaccines

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has heard from all sides about his plan to require a state mask and booster vaccine for children who have not yet received booster shots. On Friday, a coalition of…

Colorado health agencies are worried about Gov. Jared Polis’ proposal for mandatory booster vaccines

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has heard from all sides about his plan to require a state mask and booster vaccine for children who have not yet received booster shots.

On Friday, a coalition of health agencies sent a letter to the Democratic governor outlining public health concerns with the plan.

“We believe that requiring adult protectors to wear a face mask when traveling for business and leisure would be contrary to public health goals,” the letter said. “Moreover, it would pose a substantial burden on travel businesses, especially for business travelers with private insurance.”

The letter was signed by representatives from Metro Denver, state health departments, health agencies, county health departments and the Governor’s Office of Travel and Tourism.

In the past year, Colorado has had two measles outbreaks that linked Colorado residents to California, where a yearlong outbreak in Disneyland sickened more than 100 people. Doctors confirmed more than 115 unvaccinated cases in Colorado between July 2015 and March 2016, including close to 15 in Douglas County.

Polis’ proposed legislation, House Bill 13-1260, would require families or guardians who cannot vaccinate their children or have opted out of the vaccine for philosophical or religious reasons to keep their child home from school or day care for one year, wear an adult protective mask when being exposed to infectious material and gain a six-month passport for each child.

“Hopefully other governors around the country will not be tempted to try to emulate our practices in Colorado,” Polis spokesman Michael Saccone said. “Vaccine legislation like this saves lives.”

In a March 2018 letter to Polis, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Director Larry Wolk told the governor about the state’s reasons for considering the proposal:

“If the bill were to become law, it would increase the risk of acquiring vaccine-preventable disease by children who do not receive the proper immunizations,” Wolk wrote. “Any child who is immunized by a professional may require two doses of vaccine and must be careful to monitor whether their booster dose is still needed. … Due to a combination of heritable and environmental factors, vaccination rates are inconsistent in Colorado, and were statewide immunization coverage averages for childhood vaccines as of the last such measurement in 2010, 70.5 percent of our resident children aged 2 to 17 months received all six doses necessary for protective protection.”

That proposal wasn’t the only one to crack health experts’ desire list this week. The county health departments of King and Denver asked the Republican governor to re-consider the state’s opt-out requirement for vaccines, called Vectosease, which requires children born in Colorado in 2007 or later to receive a booster dose of vaccines. This year, there were 5,188 requests for the shot in 2018, and the number has stayed steady for the past three years, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported.

The health departments of King and Denver asked the governor to remove the state’s opt-out requirement.

In a March 2018 letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, a nonprofit group that advises the federal government on public health matters, told the Democratic governor that “preventing disease, through vaccination, is not only cost-effective; it is also morally and culturally prudent.”

Health officials worried that Colorado families without the money to travel to another state for health care, such as those in poverty, could avoid the checkup or medical treatment. The Environmental Working Group, an organization that campaigns for a broad range of health issues, also told Hickenlooper that opting out of vaccines creates “a dangerous disconnect between the public health decision to vaccinate and the health outcome.”

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