Vaccine Exemption Bill Goes To Washington's Governor

Apr 23, 2019

Parents (including one seen here at a hearing in March) were among those testifying against a vaccine exemption bill that is now headed to the governor.
Credit TVW

The Washington House is sending a vaccine exemption bill to the governor.

The final version of the legislation was approved Tuesday. It was fueled by the outbreak of measles in southwestern Washington that sickened 72 children. But it ran into strong resistance from those worried about safety.

For several years, Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver) has sought to change the state’s laws that allow children to be exempted from receiving vaccines before they’re enrolled in school.

“In 2014, I signed onto a vaccine bill with the good representative from the 38th. It did a whole lot more than this did," Harris said. "This just get rid of the personal exemptions for the MMR. Does nothing else. Keeps the religious exemption, both personal and organizational. Also keeps the medical exemption.”

It allows parents to provide evidence that their children already have the immunity to the disease for which the vaccination would be administered.

Harris thought last week that his bill was dead for the session because of ruling that it missed a deadline for being introduced for a vote on the Senate floor. But that ruling was overturned and the bill was narrowly approved in the Senate.

On Tuesday, House members were asked to approve that Senate version. Several House Republicans complained that their amendments had been stripped out and they couldn’t support it.

Rep. Joe Schmick (R-Colfax) says it takes away parents’ rights to exempt their children with a simple request.

“And ultimately the parent is responsible for that child and I think that this is the wrong direction that we should be moving because the parent should be making this call," Schmick said.

A similar bill is moving through the Oregon legislature. On Tuesday, about a thousand people protested near the Capitol building in Salem to protest it.

I’m Doug Nadvornick reporting.