Colorado vaccine bill: Necessary education or treating parents like 'idiots'?

Measles outbreaks in New York and Canada have ratcheted up arguments about the merits of vaccines in recent weeks, but the row is perhaps most intense in Colorado. This week a proposal to tighten vaccine exemption laws advanced in the state, leading to opponents accusing the bill's sponsor of treating parents like "idiots" and "morons."

The bill would make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids on personal grounds. Any parent who tried to use the personal belief exemption would have to undergo an education program, either through a video or consultation with a physician. Exemptions on religious and medical grounds would remain available and unaffected by the law. While the bill's sponsor, Democrat Dan Pabon, says the bill is just an attempt to make sure parents understand the risks and benefits before making a decision, his political opponents have attacked the proposal.

"You can spin it any other way you like, but this basically says, 'Parents of Colorado that choose not to get immunization for their kids, you're too stupid to make this decision on your own,'" Republican House Leader Brian DelGrosso told lawmakers, the Associated Press reports. Despite opposition from DelGrosso, the bill passed in the House by an overwhelming majority. The Colorado Senate will now vote on the proposal.

While Colorado lawmakers debated the bill, a measles outbreak in an undervaccinated Canadian community grew to 228 cases, The Canadian Press reports. The high-profile outbreak--and particularly the surge in cases in New York--has worried some parents who opted against vaccinating their kids.

Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician and proponent of alternative vaccine schedules, took to Facebook to criticize the media for starting a panic that prompted dozens of parents to call his office, Forbes reports. "If an actual direct exposure has occurred from a known case, then you might be at risk. You have to be in the same room, people. If THAT happens, call me. If not, then just relax and go about your life as usual," Dr. Sears wrote.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reports increased vaccination in the Western Pacific region drove a more than 80% drop in measles deaths from 2000 to 2012. Australia, Mongolia, South Korea and Macau have now officially eliminated measles, and many other countries are awaiting final verification, The Wall Street Journal reports.

- here's the AP article
- and its follow-up piece
- check out the Canadian news
- read Forbes' post
- view the WSJ report (sub. req.)