More than 50 cases of measles have been reported in Washington but on Friday, Feb. 8, hundreds gathered to preserve a law that allows parents now to vaccinate their children.
Washington Lawmakers Push For Legislation Revision
Washington is one of 17 states that have legislation that gives citizens the right to refuse vaccination for philosophical reasons. Right now, a parent or a guardian can choose not to vaccinate a child for non-medical reasons. An unvaccinated child can still attend school.
However, there is now a greater push to change the current legislation. Lawmakers have recently proposed a bill that would make measles vaccine an exemption. With the provision, each child at a public school will have to be vaccinated to protect them against measles, mumps, and rubella.
"Right now, my city is the hotbed for this outbreak," said Monica Stonier, the state representative for Clark County, Washington and a co-sponsor of the bill. "It certainly has reached a critical state in my county."
Measles is a highly contagious disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus lives in the nose and throat of the infected and is spread through sneezing and coughing.
There is a 90 percent chance that an unvaccinated person who comes close to someone who has measles will catch the virus.
Measles can be dangerous, especially to children ages 5 years and below. It can lead to serious complications including pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and death.
Washington has already confirmed 54 cases of measles, the majority of which were reported in Clark County.
People on both sides of the debate were allowed to speak at a hearing on Friday, Feb. 8. The lawmakers hope to get the bill passed by April this year.
Fighting For The Right Not To Vaccinate
Despite the outbreak, however, hundreds marched to keep the right not to vaccinate their children. Parents believe that vaccine is a bigger threat to their children than measles.
"I don't feel I'm putting my child at risk," said a protester. "There's nothing that's going to change my mind on this on that specific vaccination."
The CDC insists that the two doses of the measles vaccine are safe and effective.