State lawmakers advance bill to ban personal vaccine exemptions

SEATTLE - The number of reported measles cases continues to rise. Two more cases were reported in Clark County. That now brings the total number of cases to 62 so far in Washington state (61 cases in Clark County, 1 case in King County).

State health officials continue to urge the public to get the measles vaccine, while state legislators are pushing ahead to make sure an outbreak like this never happens again.

A bill that would ban personal vaccine exemptions has taken one step closer to coming to a full vote.

“I think it’s the right thing. And I think the vast majority will agree with me,” said Rep. Paul Harris, who represents the state’s 17th district.

As the only Republican who is supporting and sponsoring the bill, Rep. Harris said people getting the MMR vaccine is a no-brainer.

“I find it to be an odd argument, to be quite frank, that you don’t want to be vaccinated against these diseases that other countries are clamoring for,” he said.

House Bill 1638 just made it out of the Health Care and Wellness Committee. It now heads  to the House Rules committee. If it passes, it would then head to the House Floor for a full vote.

For Harris, this is not a partisan issue, but more of a personal one. It's his district in Clark County where the measles outbreak is hitting the hardest.

“I’ve heard from several families with kids who have compromised immune systems, those who have had heart transplants, or livers, or kids who are in cancer treatments that cannot be vaccinated. They are very concerned,” said Harris.

However, some are concerned about parental rights.

Republican state Rep. Joe Schmick recently said in a letter to his constituents saying while he believes everybody should be vaccinated, he also believes that "decisions like this are best left up to parents and their doctors."

"Healthcare freedoms and parental rights are two issues we should not take lightly," he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee is also giving his support for the bill.

“The damage is so significant, and the vaccination so effective. It’s a very effective vaccine ... there really is a right decision for all of us to call for the protection of all of our children,” said Inslee.

Rep. Harris said the bill would still allow for medical and religious exemptions, but not philosophical exemptions.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.