Senate Bill 20-163
Colorado is one of just 15 states that allows for medical, religious and personal belief exemptions from vaccine requirements for school enrollment. Further, the state has had one of the most lenient state policies regarding vaccination requirements for school enrollment in the country; there historically has not been a standardized, required process for electing an exemption, meaning that it required more effort for a parent to comply with vaccine requirements for school enrollment than to elect an exemption. Over the last 10 years there have been multiple efforts to strengthen Colorado's exemption policy–some successful and some not. During the 2020 legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 20-163 (SB 163), the most substantial reform to Colorado immunization policy in recent history. The bill, signed into law on June 26, 2020, aims to keep Colorado communities protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through the standardization of school entry immunization requirements. The bill passed with bi-partisan support from both chambers of the Legislature, and with support from nearly 90% of Coloradans (according to a Keating Research Poll conducted November 2019 and again in May 2020).
The key components of the new law, which will be implemented for the 2021-22 school year, include:
- Establishing a statewide vaccination goal for all children in schools and child care facilities
- Providing additional resources to support schools and communities in reaching this goal
- Requiring schools to proactively notify parents of school immunization rates
- Requiring all immunizing health care providers to use the state’s voluntary immunization data system called CIIS
- Preserving the non-medical exemption option for parents while streamlining religious and personal belief exemptions into one category
- Requiring use of a formal, state-issued exemption form, and requiring exemption forms be signed either by an immunizing provider or for a child’s parent or guardian to complete an online vaccine education module before claiming the exemption
House Bill 14-1288
For several years, personal belief exemption (PBE)—or the ability for parents to opt out their infants and children from immunizations required for childcare and school attendance based on a philosophical belief—has remained an important policy priority for Immunize Colorado. Despite evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, Colorado has among the highest rates of PBEs in the nation. Colorado has also seen a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough), varicella (chicken pox), and influenza (flu). In response, we participated in an extensive stakeholder process, led by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), which culminated in a series of six recommendations to strengthen Colorado’s personal belief exemption process.
These recommendations led to the introduction of HB 14-1288 in the Colorado General Assembly in 2014. While HB 14-1288 was amended before being signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper at a May 21, 2014 ceremony, Immunize Colorado and over 50 organizations garnered bi-partisan support for the passage of the bill in both chambers of the Legislature.
The key components of the new law, which took effect July 1, 2014, include:
- Requiring licensed childcare centers and schools to publicly disclose, upon request, their immunization and exemption rates
- Requiring the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to assist school districts in the analysis and interpretation of the immunization data collected
- Requiring the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to create an online education module on the benefits and risks of vaccines
- Directing the State Board of Health to promulgate rules regarding the requirements related to the frequency of a submitting a personal belief exemption certificate
- Establishing a joint policy on immunization data collection and information sharing between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and other state agencies
Senate Bill 13-222
In 2013, Immunize Colorado led the passage of SB 13-222: Concerning Improving Access to Childhood Immunizations. SB 13-222 directed CDPHE to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, the Vaccine Access Task Force, to examine the current vaccine financing and delivery system and make recommendations for a more efficient and cost-effective approach. Task Force members worked for nine months to reach consensus on a set of recommendations, capturing what they see as the collective priorities for the state, which were presented to CDPHE in June 2013.