Vaccine rates get worse in Colorado; Polis issues new executive order to help but doesn’t call “anti-vax” movement wrong

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis has issued an executive order designed to address Colorado's poor vaccination rates for kindergarten students and other children.

The Democratic governor signed the order at a news conference Thursday at Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver.

It seeks to educate parents about the benefits of child vaccinations. It also seeks to increase accessibility to vaccinations in rural and underserved areas of the state.

The order also calls for an information campaign to address what Polis calls "vaccine hesitancy" among parents.

Polis stresses he won't change Colorado's existing medical and personal exemptions available to parents who choose not to vaccinate their children.

But he says poor vaccination rates make Colorado susceptible to the nationwide measles outbreak.

The order was issued on the same day new vaccine rates in Colorado were announced. Colorado's rates for measles, mumps, polio, chickenpox and hepatitis all dropped.

BONUS: You can view Colorado's most updated vaccination data here on a new state website. 

Last year, Colorado was ranked last in the U.S. for vaccine rates among kindergartners.

"With most vaccination rates, Colorado is moving in the wrong direction," Polis said.

But Polis did not go as far as some would like on the issue. When pressed by FOX31 political reporter Joe St. George to call out the "anti-vax" movement, Polis stopped short.

"Governor, will you look into the camera and tell anti-vaxers they are wrong?" St. George asked.

"Wrong about what? It's not the decision I made for my kids. I gave my kids their shots. I encourage all parents to give immunizations," Polis said.

"Is the movement wrong though?" St. George pressed.

"I mean, again, in our state, we have Christian Scientists who have objections and nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies - I am pro-choice," Polis said.

That statement didn't sit well with some.

Dr. Sean O'Leary is an infectious disease specialist. O'Leary says the governor's executive order is a good first step. However, more must be done.

"I was a little troubled by some of his statements regarding exemptions," O'Leary said. "I can say as a pediatrician and a scientist that yes, anti-vaxers are wrong."

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