House panel advances bill limiting vaccine exemptions

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A House committee has advanced a measure that would remove parents' ability to claim a personal or philosophical exemption to opt their school-age children out of the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

The House Health Care and Wellness Committee approved House Bill 1638 on a 10-5 vote. It could come up for a vote before the full House in the coming weeks.

The vote comes amid a measles outbreak that has sickened more than 50 people in the Pacific Northwest and led to Gov. Jay Inslee declaring a state of emergency.

Health officials have reported at least 54 known cases in Washington state and four in Oregon. Most of the Washington cases are concentrated in Clark County, just north of Portland, Oregon.

The measure is sponsored by a lawmaker from that region, Republican Rep. Paul Harris of Vancouver.

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