As a response to the increasing number of measles cases nationwide, lawmakers have voted to limit measles vaccine exemption in Washington state.
On Tuesday, April 23, a bill that aims to remove the parents' ability to opt out of vaccinating their children due to personal and philosophical reasons was passed. Exemptions due to medical and religious reasons, however, will remain.
Washington State Limits Vaccination Exemptions
The measure will require every child to be vaccinated against measles, a highly contagious illness, to attend school or child care centers. Unless an exemption is claimed, the parents have to show proof that their children acquired immunity for measles and other diseases, including whooping cough and polio.
Democratic state Representative Monica Stonier of Vancouver said that the measure will reduce the risk of an outbreak and allow people who have compromised immunities to feel safe within their communities.
"It keeps kids in school," she commented.
Washington is among the 17 states that allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for personal and philosophical beliefs. According to the Washington State Department of Health, 4 percent of K-12 students have non-medical vaccine exemptions. About 3.7 percent of the non-medical vaccine exemptions were due to the parents' personal or philosophical beliefs.
Republican Representative Joe Schmick, however, was not in favor of the new measure. He said that the bill is moving in the wrong direction.
"The parents should be making this call, and they should be the one to decide," he stated.
The new measure will be heading next to the office of Governor Jay Inslee who has previously expressed support for limiting the vaccine exemptions.
Measles Outbreaks 2019
The new measure was a response to the continuously growing cases of measles across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since January, a total of 626 cases of measles have been recorded.
For comparison, 2010 was the worst year on record since the disease was said to be eradicated in the United States in 2000. The number of cases at the time reached 667.