Colorado’s House Bill for “Mandatory Parent Vaccine Re-education”
The Rise and Fall of Colorado’s House Bill 14-1288:
“Mandatory Parent Vaccine Re-education”
By Robyn Charron
In early 2013 the Colorado Department of Public Health partnered with the Children’s Immunization Coalition to create a “Stakeholder Working Group” of 57 Colorado residents. Their mission was to generate a policy to change the ease with which parents elect an exemption of personal belief to opt their children out of one or more of the vaccines required to attend school. Since many of the doctors, pro-vaccination advocates, health department employees, and school district representatives were under the misimpression that parents who use the personal belief exemption are uneducated about vaccines and too lazy to take their child to the doctor for any reason, phrases like “requiring equal effort as vaccinating parents” and “closing the convenience loophole to use an exemption” made their way into the discussion. Their goal from the beginning was to change the Colorado statute in order to coerce more parents to vaccinate, and ultimately decrease the number of parents using exemptions.
Various subgroups of the Stakeholder Working Group met a handful of times between April and October of 2013. These “focus groups” were comprised of: public health nurses, school nurses, pediatricians, and primary care providers. Notably absent as a subgroup is anything identified as a group working to educate parents on vaccination risks, parents of the vaccine injured, leaders from the autism community, or anyone from the local medical centers working to recover children with autism.
25 people from the Stakeholder Working Group met three times in those months. The National Vaccine Information Center was allowed one token representative in the Stakeholder Working Group. The sole “parent advisory board member” was actually a representative of Voices for Vaccines, which is under the Task Force for Global Health, a $1.6 Billion non-profit funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and various major pharmaceutical companies. In fact, the Children’s Immunization Coalition not only has a member of the Department of Health on its board, but it also has a lawyer named Elaine Lowery on its board, who happens to be the Senior Public Health Advisor for the Task Force for Global Health.
In October of 2013 the meetings concluded and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a report on the Stakeholder Engagement Process. It contained the following recommendations:
1. The Department of Education and Board of Education will hold schools responsible for their vaccine policies.
2. The Department of Health, Department of Education, and Department of Human Services will establish a joint policy on collecting and sharing the vaccination information of students.
3. Require parents to be educated about the benefits of vaccines prior to being allowed to exercise a personal belief exemption for their children.
4. Make vaccine exemption rates of schools and childcare providers publicly available.
5. Have a medical doctor or health official sign off on granting the personal belief exemption.
Points 1 and 2 had the full support of the Stakeholder Working Group without any divided opinions. Point 4 addressed information that is already available in the state of Colorado with a simple phone call to one’s school of choice. Points 3 and 5, the meat of the recommendations, were designed to be the first step in removing the personal belief exemption from the Colorado statutes entirely.
Colorado House Bill 14-1288 was drafted from these recommendations and sponsored by Representative Dan Pabon, who has aspirations of becoming a U.S. Representative, and Senator Irene Aguilar, a medical doctor.
In June of 2013 the Colorado Coalition for Vaccine Choice began to organize into what became a roaring 150-member organization of chiropractors, nurses, former military, lawyers, vaccine education advocates, and parents of vaccine-injured children. By the time HB-1288 had its first hearing before the House Committee in the Old Supreme Court Room on March 13, 2014, the opponents of the bill who arrived to testify outnumbered the supporters by 3 to 1. The disparity was so obvious that Rep. Pabon was moved to testify that “…he could have packed this courtroom with his supporters if he wanted to, but he chose not to.”
Testimony on HB-1288 began at 4pm in the evening and went on without a break for over 5 hours. On the support side there were doctors who claimed vaccine injuries were “one in the millions.” There was a parent of an autistic child who denied that vaccines caused autism, as well as the parent of a child with a severe peanut allergy who also wanted to see increased vaccination rates. There were claims of needing to know daycare vaccination rates that were unsupported by any evidence of not being able to obtain them. Over and over again doctors made reference to how much more likely an unvaccinated person is to contract pertussis, while urging the committee to ignore the surveillance data that stated otherwise. Repeatedly Dr. James Todd, who works so closely with the Immunization Coalition that he is presenting their 2013 Annual Report, spoke of the “immunocompromised children who can’t receive vaccines” without explaining how those children became so injured. It was stressed that this bill was “preserving the personal exemption.”
From the opposition there were stories of seizure disorders brought on by vaccination, autism, and deadly food allergies. Opponents testified to the redundancy of the bill and how it was unnecessary, how it was a violation of FERPA, and in violation of a parent’s right to make medical decisions without government involvement. The committee heard how the group behind the bill was not being honest about their identity and aspirations for mandatory vaccination across the nation. They heard about the pertussis surveillance data in the state of Colorado and how infrequently the unvaccinated have been diagnosed with it. They heard about school administrators using the same law in California as an excuse to go door-to-door with vaccines.
Before the committee vote was taken Rep. Pabon removed the “publicly available” portion of the vaccination data and amended it to read “upon request” in order to make the bill more palatable.
It wasn’t until 10pm approached that the committee voted the bill on to the full House with only two representatives, Representatives Janak Joshi and Stephen Humphrey, arguing in opposition. Several members of the committee made a point to remark about how much they had learned that night from the opposition.
On March 21st the full House passed the bill on a voice vote, and on March 24th the bill passed a 3rd reading with a vote of 42 to 19.
From there it was on to the Senate, where the Coalition would have its best chance of killing the bill due to the near-even split of Democrats and Republicans. The Coalition continued its phone call and letter writing campaign, and many members took time out of their work days to meet with Senators face-to-face at the Capitol. There were television appearances, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, and letters to the editor published. The Senate Committee testimony was heard on April 9th, and while the HB-1288 supporters replayed their exact testimony and talking points from the previous testimony, the Coalition presented as special ops teams, taking on disease surveillance data, the vaccine schedule, Voices for Vaccines, civil liberties, the so-called convenience loophole, vaccine injury, vaccine ingredients, herd immunity, live viral shedding, contraindications, and vaccination failure. In a brilliant display, Senator Ted Harvey interrogated the local Voices for Vaccines representative without allowing her to deflect his questions to any other witnesses. There was no vote at the end of the night due to the absence of one of the Senators.
Three days later Senator Aguilar was forced to gut her own bill of all references to vaccine education. She admitted that she did not have the support for it to pass and chose to change it rather than let it be killed. There would be no annual doctor visit for a lecture, no signature from the health department, and no required hour-long re-education online module to watch. The ease with which Colorado parents elect to take a vaccine exemption simply by signing a piece of paper would remain as-is. The heart of 1288 was dead.
This is what remained of the bill: the creation of an online module by the Health Department that no one has to watch, the creation of rules by the Board of Health about how often exemptions would need to be turned in, require schools to provide exemption rates upon request despite the fact that they already do, for the Department of Health to establish a policy on exemption data collection, and for the Department of Health to assist schools in interpreting exemption data.
The gutted bill passed out of the Senate Committee with two Senators, Bernie Herpin and Ted Harvey, objecting. It went on to the full Senate to be heard April 22nd, where it then squeaked by party lines with 18 in favor and 17 against, after Senator Aguilar had to promise on the open floor that she would not attempt to add the parental education mandate back into the bill. The next day on final reading Senator Kevin Lundberg proffered an amendment making reference to the risks of vaccinations that was added to the Legislative Declaration of HB-1288, and the gutted bill then passed with a vote of 19-16.
Due to the differences in the bill from when it was in the House compared to the Senate, it then had to go back to the full House for a new vote as amended. The Coalition wanted the bill to pass this time so that a new committee would not have the opportunity to hammer out the differences between the versions. Just before midnight on May 2nd, It passed the full House on a vote of 39 to 29.
Representative Pabon lamented that there “wasn’t much of the bill left” and said he would “concur with those who shall not be named,” making reference to the Senate that destroyed his handiwork.
The shell of House Bill 14-1288 will soon be in the Governor’s hands to sign. The Colorado Coalition for Vaccine Choice declares victory over Voices for Vaccines, the Task Force for Global Health, the Children’s Immunization Coalition, and all of the pro-vaccination groups and individuals dedicated to taking away parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their children without government intervention. This bill was never about education—it was about coerced vaccination and achieving self-imposed exemption rates while ignoring the parents of children who have suffered as the collateral damage of a one-size-fits-all vaccination program. The residents of Colorado are a shining example of organization and tenacity for the states that will find themselves next on the vaccine exemption hit list. Be sure to follow NVIC’s advocacy page for the bills currently in the works to take away your parental rights.
Irene Aguilar, the Senate sponsor of HB-1288, accurately summed it up for the media when she said:
“It’s a vocal, well-educated and articulate minority. They came out in droves and their voices were heard.”
– Vaccine Rights Attorney Challenges Colorado Legislature on Vaccine Exemption Bill by: Alan Phillips, J.D., March 11, 2014
Achieving and protecting the right to informed consent to vaccination is more important now than ever before, and we need your help to make that happen. NVIC wants to help you, our members, to organize and make a difference in your home state right where you live to protect and expand vaccine exemptions. It is at the state level that mass vaccination policies are made, and it is at the state level where your action to protect your rights can have the greatest impact. Also, when national vaccine issues occur, you will be plugged in to the information and action items necessary to make sure your voice is heard.
A Victory today!
NY parents stomp pharma bill to allow minors of any age to get STD vaccines without parental consent
New York Assembly Bill A497a was pulled from the Assembly Health Committee agenda today after a flood of phone calls and messages swept Albany letting legislators know that allowing the vaccine industry to give vaccines to our children without our knowledge or consent wasn’t going to fly. Assemblymember Amy Paulin’s bill was pulled from the agenda today when it became clear that there weren’t enough votes for it to pass out of committee.
Paulin has tried to pass the bill four times now and we have defeated it every time. This isn’t a done deal yet, not until the legislators quit for the year around July 4, but this bill is off to a very rocky start. Bill sponsor Amy Paulin has received more than $10,000 from the vaccine industry, including $5000 from Merck, the manufacturer of the Gardasil HPV shot, $2300 from Pfizer and $1900 from Eli Lilly, the inventor of thimerosal. Don’t kid yourself what this is about: money. Pharma isn’t invincible, when we fight back and fight back hard we can win.
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