While it is currently a parent’s choice to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children, it may not be for long in the Pacific Northwest.
The state of Washington is experiencing a high number of measles cases that have caused more than 50 people to become ill with the disease, according to WAGA-TV.
Lawmakers in Washington have come together to hear testimony about whether a bill should be passed that requires parents to vaccinate their children for measles, mumps and rubella.
Hundreds of parents came forward to oppose the possibility of passing such a law more than an hour before the start of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee hearing.
The parents were adorned with stickers that showed the bill’s number HB 1638 crossed out in a circle.
The idea for the bill was sparked by numerous reports of measles in Washington — 52 at last count — and the four cases that have developed in Oregon.
The majority of the measles cases are concentrated in Clark County, Washington, just north of Portland, Oregon.
Republican state Rep. Paul Harris of Vancouver, Washington, is championing the bill with the support of the Washington State Medical Association and Gov. Jay Inslee.
Gov. Inslee declared a state of emergency in Washington last month due to the number of measles cases.
Harris told WAGA that the residents in his district are “concerned about our community, its immunity and the community safety.”
The bill, if passed, would allow for proof of disease immunity as a substitute for immunization through evidence found in a laboratory or history of the disease.
The state of Washington currently allows exemptions for vaccinations for children at public or private schools or licensed day care centers if there is a medical, religious, personal or philosophical belief.
If a parent is unable to show an exemption for their child, the child must be vaccinated to attend school for diseases such as polio, whooping cough and mumps and more.
Susie Corman from Informed Choice Washington believes that there should be a choice for parents.
“Where there is risk, there must be choice, and there is risk with this vaccine as there is with any other medical procedure,” she told WAGA.
According to the Washington Department of Health, a total of 4 percent of Washington secondary school students currently have non-medical vaccine exemptions — 3.7 percent are personal exemptions and the remaining percentage are religious exemptions.
In Clark County, 6.7 percent of kindergarteners had an exemption for the 2017-18 school year, according to the state’s Department of Health.
Washington is one of 17 states that allow for a non-medical vaccination exemption for “personal, moral or other beliefs,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon also allows the exemption.
In 2015 legislation was introduced that removed the non-medical exemption allowance, but it never made it through the House because it faced strong opposition.
Gov. Inslee and the Washington State Medical Association want a broader bill that would take away the right for non-medical vaccination exemptions to attend school.
Washington is not alone in its efforts to eliminate the exemption as California made the move in 2015 when 147 people were affected by a measles outbreak that occurred at Disneyland. The illness spread throughout the U.S. and into Canada. As of 2015, Vermont has also eliminated the exemption.
While it remains to be seen if Washington will pass a bill to eliminate the non-medical vaccination exemption, it is up to parents to make an informed choice for the health of their children.
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