OLYMPIA — With an estimated 48 cases of measles diagnosed in Washington, state lawmakers think it might be time to do away with a controversial law that allows parents to avoid crucial immunizations for their children.
State Rep. Paul Harris, whose district includes the Clark County suburbs where most of the measles cases were found, introduced a bill to eliminate “philosophical exemptions” to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine that’s required before a child enters kindergarten.
House Bill 1638 would still allow that exemption for parents wishing to refuse other childhood vaccines, like meningitis or whooping cough. Of the state’s 48 measles patients so far, 41 were people who were not vaccinated against the disease, and 34 are children ages 1 to 10 years old.
Harris is a Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, who’s also championed proposals to outlaw teen tobacco use. Fourteen Democrats have signed on to consponsor Harris’ bill, allowing a good chance it could pass the Democratically controlled chamber.
The response to measles statewide has gotten serious. Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency Jan. 25 in all counties in light of the outbreak. Last week, Chelan Douglas Health District Administrator Barry Kling warned that children without vaccinations will be barred by law from attending school if measles occurs in either of those two counties.
Harris’ bill is scheduled for its first committee hearing Feb. 8. For information on getting your child immunized, contact your doctor or your local health district right away.
Jefferson Robbins: 679-7013