Tracking the anti-vaccine movement in the West

For the past few weeks I’ve been kind of obsessed with finding out how many school children in my area are un or undervaccinated. It’s hard to find out–Colorado doesn’t require districts to disclose this information, so I’ve been calling school nurses again and again. Finally, the data has come in, and the rates are pretty high. There are some districts in rural Western Colorado where 25-30% of kids don’t have all their required vaccines. Why? Well, partially it’s because opting out is easy: all a parent has to do is check a box saying vaccines violate their personal beliefs. Now, the state of Colorado is pushing back and trying to make it harder to opt-out. They’re following the lead of other Western states like Oregon, California and Washington.

I wrote two stories on this with different angles, one for The Daily Yonder and one for High Country News. Stay tuned for a radio documentary on my local findings, coming up in the next few weeks.

A woman gets a flu shot. Courtesy Flickr user WFIU Public Radio.

A woman gets a flu shot. Courtesy Flickr user WFIU Public Radio.

Coal on the brain

Multiple times every day, the coal train rattles the windows of my little house as it chugs up to the three coal mines in Colorado’s North Fork valley, fills up, and makes it way back West. I know it goes as far as Grand Junction, Colorado, before being split up, some of the coal heading East where it’s burned in power plants in Tennessee, some of it headed further West. My daily reminder of this industry’s existence is as good an explanation as any for why I’m about to spend the next few months buried in coal policy and economics. It’s hard to forget where your electricity comes from when it’s rumbling past you day after day after day.

Also, there’s this.

Sticker I got at the Western Colorado Coal Conference.

I got this sticker at the Western Colorado Coal Conference a couple weeks ago. My environmental journalist friends went crazy for it. But in all seriousness, efforts to market the coal industry right now are pretty interesting to me. That’s also something I’ll be digging into as I ride my own coal train here in the coming weeks and months.