Jul 31, 2014 12:10 AM by Annie Snead
Some Southern Colorado students return to school this week and with the new school year comes new laws-- dealing with immunization of children.
The new law requires schools to disclose how many students are not immunized against diseases, when a parent, or anyone asks.
Mom of five Suzie Epperson tells us her children got the basic shots - like for measles and mumps.
"I felt like those were more necessary because if they were to get those diseases, I feel like it would be more detrimental to them," Epperson said.
But she and her husband opted out of getting them the HPV and chicken pox vaccine.
"Everyone has different beliefs and for us we chose to get the basic ones but there are people for religious reasons who don't want to do it, or for whatever reason they choose, so it's really up to each individual family," she said.
Now those numbers of families who choose not to, either for a religious or personal reason, or medical condition are available.
"A parent can ask either their principle, the student nurse or the district office for the immunization rates for their school and we'll be more than happy to provide that for them," said Matt Meister, Director of Communications for District 49.
He says the new law doesn't really change anything from a district perspective.
"Each student is still required to meet the legal state guidelines regarding immunizations unless an exemption is given to us," Meister said.
News 5 asked several districts in our area for their exemption rates-- to get an idea of just how many parents chose not to immunize their children.
D-49's rate is more than 6 percent of students.
In D-11, the exemption rate is around 4.5 percent.
At D-60 in Pueblo: the rate is 7.4 percent.
In D-20: 13.8 percent of students skipped at least one vaccination.
"That does surprise me that there's that amount of people who have chosen not to immunize their children but once again that's personal preference ," said Suzie.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
"In the event of an outbreak of disease against which immunization is required, no exemption or
exception from immunization shall be recognized and exempted persons may be subject to
exclusion from school and quarantine."
Dr. Paolo Bahr with Memorial Hospital strongly recommends getting kids vaccinated.
And while there are risks:
"When you compare the benefits and the number of lives saved, the number of illnesses prevented, the number of days not spent at home, caring for your children, missing work, missing school days, it greatly overwhelms the risk," he said.
He says unvaccinated kids - and even adults - actually get a benefit from all the vaccinated children.
"Because there's less illness circulating so there's less exposure," said Dr. Bahr.
And despite their success record, Dr. Bahr says there's still a lot of controversy surrounding them.
"It becomes a tricky situation between balancing the personal freedoms of the individual and then just the benefits to public health and the health and well being of the community," he added.
The Department of Health and Environment is currently working on a video as an information resource when it comes to student immunizations.