As his mother Wenyi Zhang holds him, one-year-old Abel Zhang looks at the book being given him by Dr. Lauren Lawler, right, as his grandmother Ding Hong helps with his clothes moments after the child received the last of three inoculations, including a vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Washington lawmakers advance limits on vaccine exemptions

Legislation comes amid an outbreak that has sickened more than 50 people in the Pacific Northwest

Washington state lawmakers advanced a measure Friday that would remove parents’ ability to claim a personal or philosophical exemption to vaccinating their school-age children for measles as the Pacific Northwest struggles with an outbreak of the contagious virus.

The House Health Care and Wellness Committee approved House Bill 1638 on a 10-5 vote. The full House could vote on it in the coming weeks.

The legislation comes amid an outbreak that has sickened more than 50 people in the Pacific Northwest and led Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency. Health officials have reported at least 54 known cases in Washington state and four in Oregon.

Washington is among 17 states, including Oregon, that allow some type of non-medical vaccine exemption for “personal, moral or other beliefs,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

READ MORE: Third measles case in Vancouver prompts letter to parents

Washington now allows vaccination exemptions for children at public or private schools or licensed day-care centres based on medical, religious and personal or philosophical beliefs. Unless an exemption is claimed, a child is required to be vaccinated against or show proof of acquired immunity for nearly a dozen diseases — including polio, whooping cough and mumps — before they can attend school or a child care centre.

Hundreds of people who oppose ending the exemptions, including environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., showed up at a public hearing on the legislation last week.

A broader measure introduced in the state Senate, which would not allow personal or philosophical exemptions to be granted for any required school vaccinations, is scheduled for a public hearing next Wednesday.

Four per cent of Washington secondary school students have non-medical vaccine exemptions, the state Department of Health said. Of those, 3.7 per cent of the exemptions are personal, and the rest are religious.

In Clark County — an area just north of Portland, Oregon, where all but one of the Washington cases are concentrated — 6.7 per cent of kindergartners had a non-medical exemption for the 2017-18 school year, health officials said.

READ MORE: Measles outbreak in Washington state spurs warning from BC Centre for Disease Control

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. Vermont also abandoned its personal exemption in 2015.

Rachel La Corte, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Kaslo bus fueled by vegetable oil to begin service next month

Mountain Man Mike’s will run routes to Vancouver and eventually Edmonton

Police investigating felling of old cedars at Cottonwood Lake

One of the cedars was 300 to 450 years old

Castlegar non-profit’s stolen van located

Kootenay Society for Community Living’s van was stolen May 14.

Interior Health study offers take-home drug testing kits to spot fentanyl

Interior Health to evaluate safety of at home drug testing kits aimed at reducing fentanyl overdoses

Kootenay Columbia adopts $48-million school budget

Kootenay Columbia trustees adopted the 2019/2020 budget on May 2

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

ICBC urging drivers to slow down this May long weekend

Speed is number one cause of car crash fatalities: ICBC

Bucks hammer Raptors 125-103 to take 2-0 playoff series lead

Toronto heads home in a hole after second loss to Milwaukee

Most Read