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Divisive Vaccine Proposal Abandoned In Colorado

DENVER (AP) - An attempt to improve vaccination rates in Colorado failed Tuesday in the state Senate.

Instead, the Senate approved a bill to enhance vaccine education efforts - a watered-down version of a measure that would have made it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children. Colorado is among a handful of states that allow parents to sign "personal belief" exemptions from required immunizations, and last school year Colorado had the 6th-highest rate of immunization exemption in the U.S. at 4.3 percent.

The bill would have required parents invoking the "personal belief" exemption to watch a video about vaccinations or get doctor clearance for taking the exemption.

Democratic sponsors said the bill stood no chance of passage in the face of strong opposition from some in both parties. They called the watered-down bill the only viable option.

"At this point our decision is, are we happy taking the baby step ... or do we want to give it all up?" said Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, sponsor of the vaccine measure.

The bill still requires schools to disclose vaccination rates, a safeguard aimed at protecting kids with fragile immune systems. It also directs state health authorities to work on improved communication with parents about vaccines.

Even the stripped-down vaccine version sparked intense opposition from some. Parents who oppose mandatory vaccination packed committee hearings earlier this year, and Republicans complained the original version amounted to "propaganda," as one described it.

"It was the re-education bill, that's what it was there for, to force parents into a training program," said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.

Some House Republicans supported the measure, arguing that parents could still invoke "personal belief" exemptions after completing vaccination education.

But the measure appeared doomed in the Senate. And its sponsors admitted defeat Tuesday.

Asked whether he'd fight to restore the additional vaccine requirements, bill sponsor Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver said, "It's not worth going through that battle this year."

LINK: House Bill 1288

- By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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