Date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Aurora – The Colorado Board of Health (BOH) voted unanimously today to approve the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) proposed changes to the frequency and process of submitting nonmedical immunization exemption certificates to attend school or child care. The Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC), a statewide nonprofit dedicated to increasing children’s immunization rates, actively supports the rule change.
“These are common-sense steps toward creating healthier child care centers, schools and communities,” said CCIC Executive Director Stephanie Wasserman. “Until now, it has been easier and more convenient to elect a personal belief exemption than to provide immunization records. More frequent renewals not only allow parents to reconsider their decision, but they also provide a clearer picture of where schools and child care facilities stand in protecting our kids.”
The proposed amendments were a component of legislation passed in 2014, which directs the Colorado Board of Health to create rules about how often a parent or student must submit a nonmedical certificate from required immunizations.
Under the rule, in order to attend a school or child care center, students/their parents must submit a record showing receipt of all required vaccines or submit an immunization exemption form for personal belief, religious or medical reasons. Until today, exemption forms for nonmedical reasons only needed to be provided once, unless the student changed schools or child care facilities.
The changes require that nonmedical exemption forms be submitted following each age immunizations are recommended on the schedule developed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for children attending licensed child care facilities – typically at 2,4, 6, 12, and 18 months. For students attending kindergarten through grade 12, forms must be submitted annually.
The new rule also requires that schools with children birth through grade 12 annually report aggregate immunization and exemption information to CDPHE. House Bill 1288 requires that schools and child care centers make this information available to anyone – including parents – upon request. A standardized approach to reporting intends to reduce the burden on school staff and make immunization data more accessible to parents.
"This is really about empowering people with data. Parents deserve to know if they're sending their kids into a school environment that is susceptible to disease outbreak,” said Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado. "This new rule helps provide families with this vital and accurate information."
A report published in February shows that many Colorado children aren’t getting all the recommended immunizations. About 27.9 percent of Colorado two-year-olds were under- or un-immunized, and 538 children were hospitalized in Colorado for vaccine-preventable diseases in 2013 costing the state over $29 million.
“The evidence is clear that vaccination is a safe, effective way to reduce hospitalizations, avert costs, and prevent death in children,” explained report author James Todd, MD, director of epidemiology at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “The best way to keep schools and communities healthy is by preventing disease from entering in the first place, and the best way to do that is to vaccinate.”
Media contact: Meredith Kersten
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