Nearly a week after Washington lawmakers introduced legislation that would eliminate the state’s personal exemption for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, has announced she’ll introduce a more expansive bill that would remove the opt-out for other immunizations.
The legislation comes amid an outbreak of measles in Clark County, which had reached 41 confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon. Gov. Jay Inslee declared a public health emergency in response to the outbreak, which had spread to Oregon and the Seattle area.
Washington is one of 18 states that allow families to exempt children in public schools from vaccinations for personal or philosophical reasons. Clark County has a higher exemption rate than the rest of the state, which helped make the outbreak possible.
In response, Reps. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, and Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, have sponsored legislation that would eliminate the state’s personal exemption for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Their bill, House Bill 1638, would still allow the personal exemption for other vaccines. Families could also still use medical and religious exemptions allowed under state law.
The bill introduced by Cleveland, who chairs the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, would do away with the personal exemption for required vaccinations that immunize children from polio, measles, chicken pox, pneumococcal disease and other illnesses, according to a news release. The legislation would keep the state’s religious and medical exemptions.