PERRY: Polis is right about educating Colorado vaccinaphobes and so wrong opposing a needed law

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I agree with Gov. Jared Polis that Colorado needs to immediately invoke a widespread campaign to educate parents how safe childhood vaccines are and how critical it is to inoculate their kids.

Polis is gravely mistaken, however, in believing that education alone will do a damned thing.

There’s no way even the most elaborate and expensive campaign will work to increase vaccination compliance among a community of precariously misinformed and deluded parents. These parents endanger not just their own children’s health and lives, but that of everyone in the state.

Polis has repeatedly pushed back against the idea of changing state law to end the gaping loopholes that vaccine scofflaws use to keep from inoculating their children against diseases like mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella and chicken pox. On a recent Colorado Public Radio interview, Polis made it sound like he might even veto a vaccination bill if one made it to his desk.

The problem is a looming national problem, but it’s potentially even more dangerous in Colorado. That’s because this state has the dubious distinction of having the worst vaccination rate in the nation. The worst.

Why? It’s because a growing number parents have been suckered by a treacherous conspiracy theory about fabricated dangers in inoculating children from menacing diseases. They imperil their own children and all of us.

We’re not talking about a handful of kids. An astounding 11 percent of school-age kids are no longer vaccinated in Colorado. That means about 90,000 children are potential victims, and they create danger to children medically unable to take vaccine to prevent diseases that can kill them.

Even more dangerous, there are likely large groups of these children in metro-area schools where “educated” parents make dubious decisions based on junk science and lies.

The core ruse is a repeatedly discredited study run by a discredited doctor who fallaciously tied autism to childhood vaccinations several years ago. The U.S. media irresponsibly published the claims despite experts exposing the author’s poor science, helping to legitimize them.

In a recent editorial, the Sentinel recently wrote, “There is not one reputable pediatrician, pediatric organization, hospital, clinic or researcher that does not vehemently work to debunk the autism lie and beg parents to vaccinate their children.”

Not one.

That’s why Polis’ insistence on giving education the old college try won’t work. It’s already failed.

Nobody works harder to educate parents about how wrong they are about not vaccinating their children than their own doctors and health practitioners. If these parents won’t listen to their own physicians, they’re sure as hell not going to be impressed by any amount of TV ads and Facebook posts.

Vaccinaphobes are well aware of the years-long campaign to talk them out of their potentially lethal gamble. For the past decade, the media has worked overtime to try and undo the damage we did by running initial stories as an exercise in telling both sides of the issue.

Since then, every reputable news source makes clear that crap about doctors just getting rich off of childhood vaccination, vaccine manufacturer extortion and a host of even kookier claims are dangerous claptrap.

It does no good.

With all the deluded stubbornness of a dowser, these people refuse to budge. In fact, there are local and national websites and social media hangouts just for these anti-vax cultists.

On a local Facebook group, parents recently exchanged recommendations for childhood docs, nurses and PAs that don’t give vaccinaphobes too hard a time for just saying “no” to common sense.

One parent advised others that she doesn’t even bother taking her child to a doctor for well visits as a way to avoid being lectured about vaccinating her brood.

It’s freaking insanity. These are parents who would in seconds rely on their pediatrician to save their child from an appendicitis, blood infection, cancer or fever that just won’t come down. But they think their own child’s doctor is a criminal idiot for insisting they vaccinate their kid against rubella and mumps.

Education hasn’t worked. Only laws will.

Just this week, a county on the north side of New York City — New York City, folks — went into emergency mode because an uncontrolled measles outbreak infecting more than 150 children since last fall. It’s a disease that was eradicated in the United States in 2000.

The disease is spreading so fast that county health officials have prohibited unvaccinated children from attending school and going to public places, such as swimming pools, shopping malls, restaurants and other civic centers.

Colorado should do the same. If you’re an anti-vaxxer, this isn’t about your kids anymore, it’s about all of our children. These parents have become public menaces and have to treated like any other problem that endangers public health.

Colorado lawmakers must introduce legislation to end all vaccine exceptions except legitimate medical ones document by a reputable physician. Only this, and a massive public education campaign, will turn the state’s dangerous vaccination dilemma around.

Of course Colorado should offer an opt-out alternative for un-believer parents who don’t want the state telling them what to do: Stay home. Send your unfortunate child to a private school created for vaccine deniers and hope he or she knows better than you when they become adults and get the vaccines they need.

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