Lawmakers take up bill to allow fewer vaccination exemptions

OLYMPIA — Personal or philosophical opposition to vaccines would not be an authorized exemption for the parents of school-age children under a measure that received a public hearing before a House committee on Tuesday.

More than a dozen parents spoke against the bill, sponsored by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, that would strip the personal beliefs exemption from the state’s immunization law.

Nearly every parent who spoke had the same message: They must be allowed to choose the course of care for their children free of government coercion.

“Please leave the health care decisions to families,” Ziggy Siegfried of Spokane told members of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.

Josh Swenson of Tumwater said House Bill 2009 “takes away my rights as a parent to protect my children. You cannot force me to hurt my child.”

Ralph Munro, a former Secretary of State, backed the bill. He told lawmakers he helped write the state’s first vaccination law in 1979 “but it has not been enough.”

“Many people today do not realize how dangerous measles can be,” he said. “Every unvaccinated child is a health risk to our community.”

The state Department of Health requires children attending public schools to be vaccinated against infectious diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, polio and whooping cough. They also can enroll if they show proof of acquired immunity to the diseases.

National immunization data from 2013 show 71 percent of Washington children between 19 and 35 months old have received all of their shots on time.

Under state law, parents or guardians can obtain a vaccination exemption for medical, personal or religious beliefs. Washington is one of 20 states which allow for an exemption on philosophical grounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures

Robinson’s bill would remove that personal belief allowance, which she said makes it too easy for parents to not think about the effect that they’re having on the community. The committee could vote on the bill as early as Wednesday.

Robinson, who works for King County Public Health, acted in response to the measles outbreak that has sickened more than 100 people across the U.S., including in Washington, and in Mexico. No deaths have been reported.

The bill has 27 sponsors and is backed by Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Medical Association.

“Immunizations are safe and effective and save millions of lives,” Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state’s chief health officer, said at the hearing.

Yet, she said, there are schools where the exemption rate is 30 percent to 40 percent and that makes them “tinder boxes” for the potential spread of infectious diseases.

Several parents questioned the safety of vaccines, sharing stories of how their children received vaccinations against one disease only to fall ill from another disease.

“Yes, disease has risk but every vaccine has risks too,” said Audrey Adams of Renton.

Following the hearing, Robinson said the testimony of parents didn’t lessen her resolve. She said she is confident the bill will move forward without changes.

“Most parents want to do the right thing. Most parents immunize their children,” she said. Many of the issues parents talked about in the hearing she said she thought would qualify under the law’s medical exemption.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

A photo of "Tazz," an Argentine white Tegu still missing near Granite Falls. (Provided photo)
Tazz the missing tegu reunited with owner in Granite Falls

The 4-foot lizard went missing Friday evening. Searchers located him in a barn, 1 mile away from his home.

A closing sign hangs above the entrance of the Big Lots at Evergreen and Madison on Monday, July 22, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Big Lots announces it will shutter Everett and Lynnwood stores

The Marysville store will remain open for now. The retailer reported declining sales in the first quarter of the year.

President Joe Biden speaks at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, N.C., on April 14, 2022. Biden plans to nominate Michael Barr  to be the Federal Reserve's vice chairman of supervision. The selection of Barr comes after Biden's first choice for the Fed post, Sarah Bloom Raskin, withdrew her nomination a month ago (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Washington Democrats voice support for Biden’s decision to drop out of presidential race

Some quickly endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him on the ballot.

Everett
Teenager in stable condition after Everett drive-by shooting Saturday

Major Crime Unit detectives were looking for two suspects believed to have shot the teenager in the 600 block of 124th Street SW.

Miners Complex tops 500 acres in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Nine lightning-caused fires force trail closures and warnings 21 miles east of Darrington. No homes are threatened.

FILE — President Joe Biden arrives for a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. Biden abandoned his campaign for a second term under intense pressure from fellow Democrats on Sunday, July 21, upending the race for the White House in a dramatic last-minute bid to find a new candidate who can stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of race, endorses vice president Kamala Harris

The president announced the decision on social media Sunday.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.