This post was updated at 8:30 p.m. with additional information.
About 60 people gathered at the Colorado Capitol Monday for the third and final day of a summit on vaccination. It featured a series of presentations full of reasons why people should not get their children immunized.
Michele Ames says that's a problem.
"The world consensus is that vaccines are safe and effective and they save lives. Period," said Ames, a spokesperson for Colorado Vaccinates, a coalition of groups including Children's Hospital Colorado and the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics aimed at increasing vaccination rates in the state.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado and other states in the Mountain West have some of the lowest rates of kindergarten vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella. Colorado, Idaho and Utah allow vaccine exemptions based on personal beliefs. Other states only allow exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
"Outbreaks of deadly diseases like measles are happening now and we have to get our vaccination rates up in the state of Colorado if we're going to keep our schools safe and we're going to keep our communities healthy," Ames said.
Talk at the Vaccine & Health Care Choice Summit, hosted by Rep. Lori Saine and Sen. Vicki Marble, centered largely around parental choice and concerns about data privacy. As described online, the purpose of the gathering was to hold a discussion "that may result in changes to rule-making and/or statute related to vaccines."
"It was very unfortunate from my perspective that there were zero Democratic legislators that bothered to show. As a Democrat, I found that very disappointing," said Phil Silberman with the Colorado Health Choice Alliance.
Meanwhile, Colorado health officials on Monday warned of potential measles exposure at the Denver International Airport after three unvaccinated children visiting Colorado from another state tested positive.
This year the U.S. reported its highest number of measles cases in 25 years, as a recent World Health Organization update noted.
Worldwide, more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018, according to WHO and the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, saying measles “remains a staggering global challenge.” Health workers in the island nation of Samoa are working to quell a measles outbreak that has sickened more than 5,200 people and killed more than 70, 60 of them in children under 5 years old.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.