As scientists across the globe are racing to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, Republicans in key Colorado counties voted overwhelmingly in recent weeks against any state vaccination requirements for children or anyone else.
Asked about the plank, JoAnn Windholz, Chair of the Adams County Republican Party, told the Colorado Times Recorder that the resolution was about the “parents’ right to choose what’s best for their children,” and it would apply to “any type of shot.”
If a coronavirus vaccine were developed, parents should decide whether their child should be vaccinated, said Windholz, a former Colorado Republican lawmaker from Adams County, which is north of Denver, adding that the resolution was not passed in response to the pandemic.
“It has to be the parents’ decision,” she said.
Colorado allows parents to opt out of vaccination requirements for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons, but many states do not have such nonmedical exemptions.
The Adams County resolution reads, in full: “Be it resolved that the Colorado Republican Party condemn any form of mandated vaccinations; support the right for all citizens to accept or decline any or all vaccinations; condemns any use of tracking systems to track citizens based on vaccination status; condemn discrimination against citizens based on their vaccination status; and supports the rights of citizens to live free of tracking and discrimination (medical tyranny).”
Republicans in El Paso County, which is located around Colorado Springs and has more GOP voters than any other county in the state, passed two resolutions that reject vaccination requirements, without exceptions.
One resolution titled, “Parents’ Rights to Choose Vaccinations” minces no words in stating that the El Paso County Republicans “condemn government mandated vaccinations that are against an individual’s, religious, philosophical or medical beliefs; including parents’ rights to choose all, or no, vaccinations for their children.”
Republicans in El Paso County, which has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Colorado, also condemned “discrimination against any person based on their vaccination status, which includes discrimination in eligibility for employment based on their vaccination status.” The resolution further condemns “government tracking of individuals based on their vaccination status.”
Douglas County Republicans passed a more succinct position, by a 68% to 32% margin, opposing “any state-mandated vaccinations.”
“Only individuals and parents have the right to decide vaccinations for their children or themselves,” states the Douglas County Party’s resolution.
In county assemblies in recent weeks, GOP activists approved not only anti-vaccine measures, but also dozens of other conservative planks. But the vaccine planks stand out due to the timing.
Both Democrats and Republicans have county-level organizations that pass party platforms, which are used, in part, to create a statewide party platform that is approved by delegates at a state convention.
County-level Democratic and Republican groups are run by volunteers and are responsible for organizing caucus-related gatherings, fundraising, get-out-the-vote efforts, and other party activities in their counties.
County groups report to the state party organization. In the Republicans’ case, that’s the Colorado Republican Party, led by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck.
A bill that cleared the Colorado Senate this year would provide additional vaccine information to parents, as well as require that parents use a state-issued form to obtain a non-medical exemption from school vaccination requirements, or complete an online education class.
“You talk to medical providers, and they say we would not be in the situation we’re in if we had a vaccine,” said State Rep. Kyle Mullica (D-Northglenn), a sponsor of the bill, who’s an ER nurse currently treating potential COVID-19 patients at a Denver hospital.
He said he’s proud of his Democratic colleagues for “showing they care about the community by passing policies that “make sure people are safe.”
Legislation proposed by Republicans at the Colorado Capitol would loosen vaccine rules in Colorado, even though Colorado’s immunization requirements are already considered lax compared to other states, and it has some of the lowest vaccination rates.
Updated with a comment from Mullica.