New Colorado rules will complicate immunization exemptions for students | SteamboatToday.com
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New Colorado rules will complicate immunization exemptions for students

New Colorado Board of Health rules approved last week will require parents to submit exemption forms for immunizations annually to schools and child care providers
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Students who have claimed an exemption to at least one required immunization:

• Hayden School District: 19 students, or 4.9 percent

• South Routt School District: 5 students, or 1.2 percent

• Steamboat Springs School District: 246 students, or 10 percent

— A unanimous vote by the Colorado State Health Board last week will complicate the process for parents wishing to opt their children out of required immunizations.

The board voted that parents wishing to submit a non-medical immunization exemption form to schools and child care providers must do so annually and up to five times before kindergarten, rather than only once, as current policy allows.

The change takes effect July 1, 2016, and aims to reduce Colorado’s high rate of immunization exemptions.



Students who have claimed an exemption to at least one required immunization:

• Hayden School District: 19 students, or 4.9 percent

• South Routt School District: 5 students, or 1.2 percent



• Steamboat Springs School District: 246 students, or 10 percent

“With the repeated filling out of the exemption form annually, parents will have the subject of immunizations brought to their attention more often,” said Amy Knights, public health nurse manager for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

Knights said students who aren’t vaccinated are at a higher risk of contracting a communicable disease that could otherwise be prevented.

“We are hopeful that it will encourage more parents to have their children vaccinated,” Knights said.

Amid a United States measles outbreak that began in December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Colorado had the highest rate of kindergartners claiming an exemption from the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, at 4.6 percent.

The new rules also include the creation of a new public database of immunization rates for Colorado schools and child care facilities. A state law passed in 2014 required school districts to provide immunization exemption rates upon request.

When queried for exemption data in February, Steamboat Springs School District officials reported that 246 of the district’s roughly 2,467 students had claimed an exemption from at least one required immunization.

Although 10 percent of students in the district have claimed exemption for at least one immunization, the rates for individual immunizations are much lower, meaning students have opted out of some shots, but not all of them.

For example, only 97 students claimed an exemption to the MMR shot, a rate of just 3.9 percent district-wide.

The highest number of exemptions was for the chickenpox, or Varicella, vaccine (173 students) and a Tdap vaccine for Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (109 students).

While the new rules may improve exemption rates across the state, the effect in Steamboat may be less noticeable, as the district already requires separate exemption forms to be turned in for individual immunizations due at different times during a student’s school career.

In the Hayden School District, 19 of the district’s 383 students have claimed an exemption to one or more required immunization, a rate of about 4.9 percent.

In South Routt, only five elementary school students have claimed an exemption, and no middle or high school students have.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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