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DENVER (KDVR) — Approximately 3,000 people gathered on the east steps of the State Capitol building to oppose a highly controversial bill, SB-163, which lawmakers were able to advance on Sunday. 

“SB 163 is a data-mining trojan horse that threatens religious liberty, parental autonomy and our children’s health and safety,” parent Michelle Malkin testified, adding, “This is much more than a vaccine issue, it’s a civil rights issue.” 

One of the students who spoke before the committee shared an emotional plea and asked for the media to conceal her identity. 

“Do not make it easier for my peers to discriminate against me, do not violate my privacy,” the student said, adding, “My faith in government is rapidly declining.”

During witness testimonies for those supporting the bill, chanting from protesters grew louder and louder.

“I really think that it imitates what’s going on. We have people with their beliefs trying to drown out facts,” Representative Cathy Kipp said. 

Representatives had strong reactions to testimony and chanting, each expressing their views before casting the 7 to 4 vote in favor of advancing the bill.

“The whole thing, it’s agenda driven,” Representative Tim Geitner said, adding, “We didn’t afford people the opportunity to speak, we came in other protests going on, it was a Sunday afternoon.”

Little notice was given to the public about the hearing that was previously expected not to take place due to COVID-19.

Current law states that students must provide either a certificate of immunization, a certificate of medical exemption, or a statement of non-medical exemption for an immunization for a religious or personal belief in order to be exempted from vaccination.

The bill would require parents who want their child exempt from vaccination to either fill out a form and provide a certificate of non-medical exemption or watch a video about the value of vaccines and submit a certificate of completion of the online education module, created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“The bill tries to strengthen and standardize the existing exemption process. Parents won’t be required to vaccinate under this bill,” spokesperson for Colorado Vaccinates, Michele Ames said.

According to the opposition, the bill is sponsored by District 34 Democratic Representative Kyle Mullica and is “an unnecessary legislation that violates important constitutional protections and endangers the welfare of Colorado families.”

Attendees expected at the Capitol are Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of Children’s Health Defense, the National Vaccine Information CenterMedical Autonomy ColoradoDemocrats for Medical AutonomyConcerned Colorado and Colorado Health Choice Alliance.

On Sunday, lawmakers voted seven to four to approve the legislation.

It is expected to be debated by the full house later this week.

“Senate Bill 163 proposes common-sense policy changes to vaccine requirements for school enrollment that will help improve vaccination rates and protect Colorado communities, while still preserving parental choice for those families who opt-out. Further, it strengthens Colorado’s immunization information infrastructure so that our public health agencies are better prepared to respond to crises like the one we’re facing today,” a spokesperson from Colorado Vaccinates said.

The bill takes these three steps:

  1. Creates healthier, safer schools and childcare facilities by establishing a statewide vaccination goal, providing resources and supports to help schools and communities reach that goal and requiring schools to proactively notify parents of school immunization rates.
  2. Ensures more accurate, efficient and useful immunization data systems by requiring all immunizing providers to use the state’s voluntary system.
  3. Standardizes and strengthens the state’s exemption process by requiring a standard exemption form be used for all parents opting out of the vaccinations. This form must be signed by an immunizing provider or the parent must complete an online vaccination education class. The bill preserves and protects all parents’ right to opt their child out of vaccinations and out of the state’s immunization database.

“State lawmakers are making the important decision to act on behalf of our public health, something that is more important now than ever,” said Ames. “We support their willingness to act to ensure our schools and communities are safe and our national health emergency is not compounded by an outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease.”