- House representatives aim to improve herd immunity in Washington state
- Lawmakers aim to stop the ongoing measles outbreak with passage of bill
By Madeline Coats
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
OLYMPIA – In a 57-40 vote, the Washington state House of Representatives passed a bill that would eliminate the philosophical or personal objection used to exempt children from receiving the vaccines required to attend school in Washington.
Engrossed House Bill 1638 adopted six amendments out of 42 requested before final passage. The companion bill, Senate Bill 5841, will be considered next.
The measure was co-sponsored by 15 representatives and introduced by Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, the only Republican sponsor.
“This is a bipartisan issue,” said Harris. “We need our community immunity to be high.”
Clark County has an ongoing outbreak of measles, with two more cases diagnosed Tuesday, Harris said. He recounted the role vaccines have played in eradicating illnesses throughout recent history.
“I think it is easy to forget when these diseases leave us, but there were many cases in our history that resulted in death,” he said.
The legislation removes the philosophical or personal exemption for all or part of the vaccine immunization requirement for school enrollment in the state.
A child is prohibited from attending a school or daycare center without proof of full immunization or a certificate of exemption from a healthcare practitioner, the bill states. A parent or guardian may sign a written certification if their religious beliefs oppose the required immunization.
According to the Department of Health, full immunization includes vaccines for chickenpox, diphtheria, measles, German measles, haemophilus influenzae type B disease, hepatitis B, mumps, pneumococcal disease, polio, tetanus, and whooping cough.
Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor spoke in opposition of EHB 1638. Young explained how his daughter was almost killed from the booster shot for measles, mumps and rubella when she was born. He said her temperature rose to 106.7 degrees and stayed there for four days.
“A person with an experience is never at a disadvantage for a person with an argument,” he said.
Young recommended a no-vote until more scientific studies promoted other methods of immunization. He asked to reframe the argument of pro-vaccine vs. anti-vaccine to a specific debate between pro-science and more pro-science.
“I am asking for more science,” he said. “We need a definitive solution.”