OLYMPIA, Wash. — As health officials identified a new case from a measles outbreak in Washington state, lawmakers weighed two measures that would remove parents’ ability to claim a personal or philosophical exemption to vaccinating their school-age children. A House committee last week advanced a measure that would remove the philosophical exemption option for the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on a broader bill that would not allow personal or philosophical exemptions to be granted for any required school vaccinations, and it is expected to take a vote on the measure Friday.
The two bills come amid an outbreak that has sickened at least 64 people in Clark County, Washington. The Portland metropolitan area has seen four cases related to the outbreak. On Wednesday, Clark County Public Health identified one new case, one suspect case and three new exposure sites, including a Vancouver elementary school.
Washington and Oregon are among 17 states that allow some type of nonmedical vaccine exemption for “personal, moral or other beliefs.”
Wednesday was “exclusion day” in Oregon — the last day children can attend school without their required immunizations. State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, plans to sponsor a bill to amend Oregon state law to eliminate religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions for Oregon children.
California removed personal belief vaccine exemptions for children in both public and private schools in 2015 after a measles outbreak at Disneyland sickened 147 people and spread across the U.S. and into Canada.