A bill aimed at increasing Colorado’s vaccination rates has passed both chambers and now just needs to go back to the Senate for approval of a House amendment before it heads to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk.
The bill passed the House on a 40-24 vote on third reading Wednesday.
It is the second attempt to pass Senate Bill 163 after it failed last year because of a veto threat from the governor. This year, the governor said he would support the bill in its current form, but most Republican lawmakers and hundreds of vaccine opponents tried to stop or slow the bill at every step. The coronavirus pandemic almost stopped the bill from getting consideration in the final weeks of the shortened session, but Democrats decided to give it the time.
Much of the disagreement surrounding the bill has revolved around parental rights and public safety.
The bill will require parents seeking nonmedical exemptions for their children from vaccines to get a form signed by a medical professional saying they are taking a religious or personal exemption, or they have to submit a certificate of completion of an online educational module on vaccines. The bill also requires schools to produce an annual report with exemption rates and vaccination rates.
Colorado has among the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Supporters of the bill say it still gives families choice while protecting public health and safety, including that of children who are unable to be vaccinated.
“This has been a long and winding process, but knowing that today’s result will save the lives of countless children and protect our state against tragic viral outbreaks makes it all worth it,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica, a sponsor and Northglenn Democrat, in a statement. “This bill represents an important step towards streamlining our immunization process and boosting our state’s low vaccination rates without removing anyone’s ability to claim an exemption. I’m proud of what we accomplished today.”
Opponents of the bill have cited concerns about coercion and privacy.
“We are essentially saying as a legislature (to parents), ‘we don’t trust you. We think we know better,’” said Rep. Dave Williams, a Colorado Springs Republican.
The bill will head back to the Senate for a final vote after an amendment was added Tuesday that gives opponents 90 days after the bill is signed into law to collect about 124,000 signatures to put a repeal on the fall 2022 ballot.
This content was originally published here.