State

Dec 11, 2013 11:15 PM by Tony Spehar

Health organizations want strict vaccination rules

DENVER (AP) - A group of health organizations led by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wants to make it harder for parents of students to decline vaccinations and risk infection.

State policy requires only a parent's signature to claim a personal, medical or religious exemption, with 93 percent of the exemptions being claimed for personal reasons.

The exemptions allow more than 4 percent of kindergartners to arrive at school without inoculations required by law.

"It's concerning because vaccines are one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century and are estimated to save 3 million children's lives every year," said Stephanie Wasserman, executive director of Colorado Children's Immunization Coalition.

Children's Hospital Colorado infectious-disease specialist Dr. Sean O'Leary said Colorado is one of 18 states that allow a personal-belief exemption. He said in some ways vaccinations have been a victim of their own success, with people no longer living in fear of contracting diseases such as polio or measles.

O'Leary said schools and day-care centers are the front lines of keeping diseases such as pertussis and chicken pox in check. "The more kids in a school who are unvaccinated, the more at risk that school is for an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease," he said.

However, some parents fear they carry their own risk, the Denver Post reported Wednesday.

Theresa Wrangham, executive director of the National Vaccine Information Center, a nonprofit concerned about the potential side effects of vaccines, said current policy is working just fine and no major changes are necessary.

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Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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