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Children vaccine debate headed to Colorado House committee

A proposal to make it harder to send kids to school without their vaccines cleared its first hurdle Thursday in a Colorado House committee.

The proposal has powerful bipartisan backers, but it sparked intense opposition from some.

Colorado is one of 18 states that allow parents and students to opt out of getting required vaccines if they submit a statement of exemption based on religious or personal beliefs.

The bill would require parents of students seeking a personal exemption to watch a video that discusses the benefits and risks of immunization to the student. Religious and medical exemptions would not be affected.

The House Health, Insurance & Environment Committee approved the bill 9-2 after hours of emotional testimony.

Sponsors said the change is needed because of whooping-cough outbreaks and other health risks that could be prevented if more pupils were vaccinated.

“Vaccine refusal results in higher rates of vaccine-preventable disease,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. “This is a public health issue. These are very serious diseases.”

Colorado has the sixth-highest rate of non-vaccinated kindergarteners in public school, some 3,000 statewide last school year, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The measure would require school systems and child-care centers to disclose their rates of non-vaccinated children.

Parents on both sides packed the committee room to share opinions on vaccinations.

“It should not be more convenient to opt out than it is to get your child vaccinated,” said Alexandra Fickenscher of Denver, a mother of two who supports vaccination and wants to see the exemption process tightened.

Lawmakers also heard from parents with heart-breaking stories of injuries caused by vaccines. Those parents said mandatory education for parents isn’t needed.

“Parents have a constitutional right to parent their children,” said Susan Lawson, whose daughter suffered brain damage after contracting encephalitis from a routine vaccine when she was a year old. “I am not an uneducated woman.”



House Bill 1288:

By KRISTEN WYATT Associated Press

Study linking vaccine to autism “elaborate fraud,” journal says

The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.

The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide, and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

The analysis, by

Vaccine against breast cancer in the works

A team at the Cleveland Clinic has laid the scientific groundwork for a breast-cancer vaccine that may work much the same way as immunizations for mumps and measles.

The vaccine is made using a protein called alpha-lactalbumin, which is prevalent in a wide range of breast cancers, scientists said last week.

“This is a first-of-its-kind prototype,” said Dr. Vincent Tuohy, principal investigator of the research.

While the vaccine so far has been tested only in mice, Tuohy said human clinical trials could begin as early as next year, though a marketable vaccine is at least a decade away. He also predicted that the vaccine one day could be administered routinely to women starting at age 40.

Dr. Janice Lu, a specialist in breast cancer and director of medical oncology at Stony Brook University Medical Center, praised the Cleveland effort. “This is very important research,” Lu said, adding “they targeted a protein that is expressed in high amounts in breast tumors.” She said the prototype vaccine differs from the other 40 anti-breast-cancer vaccines under study that are designed to thwart breast cancer only after it has advanced. The recently approved prostate cancer vaccine, Provenge, was developed to attack cancer only after it has spread.

As with immunizations against infectious diseases, the anti- breast-cancer vaccine is administered by