By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment admits it sent inaccurate letters to parents across the state regarding children who aren’t vaccinated. The letters were perceived to inform parents that a measure proposed at the state Capitol had passed when it was still being debated.
The news of the letters comes as a controversial bill making it easier for the state to track those kids dies at the state Capitol.
The bill would have required parents to file vaccine exemptions with the state, which would then enter the kids into a registry. Right now, parents are only required to notify their kid’s school.
Supporters say the bill is about finding un-vaccinated kids quickly in an outbreak.
Opponents say it violates federal privacy laws.
“It’s a data grab. They want to populate the vaccine registry and they want to know exactly who’s exempting from which vaccines, where they live and I think it’s a harassment technique,” said Theresa Wrangham with the National Vaccine Information Center.
She lobbied against the bill that was to be heard on the house floor Monday, but was killed when it became clear there wasn’t enough support to pass it.
Before the bill had even made it to the floor, the health department issued a notice saying parents who opt out must do so on its website.
“This is misleading to parents and it’s drawing a line of discrimination against those who take these exemptions. It is their legal right to take an exemption and now we’re going to trick them into a registry and be tracked,” says Wrangham.
Rep. Patrick Neville, a Republican representing Castle Rock, is among the parents who received the notice, “They’re reaching beyond their statutory authority to collect data – private health data – on our kids.”
The health department was warned of the incorrect letters in a committee hearing several weeks ago says Rep. Janak Joshi, a Republican representing Colorado Springs.
He says the health department promised to stop sending the letters but, he said, parents continued to get the letters.
“This is nothing more than the government overreaching beyond the power we’ve given them to do,” said Joshi.
The health department issued a statement that it regrets the incorrect letters and has taken corrective action with the employee that sent them. It posted a new notice on its website and says it’s sent updated letters to parents.