Legislative efforts to put more pressure on parents to get their kids vaccinated have failed in Washington state and Oregon.

Share story

Legislative efforts to increase pressure on parents to get their kids vaccinated failed in Washington state and Oregon on Wednesday amid stiff opposition as a handful of other statehouses consider similar bills prompted by a measles outbreak at Disneyland.

In Washington state, an effort to remove personal or philosophical opposition to vaccines as an authorized exemption from childhood school immunizations died in the state House after failing to come up for a vote before a key deadline. Religious and medical exemptions would have remained under that bill.

The bill sponsor, State Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she didn’t have the votes she needed. Pushback from parents and others opposed to the change had an effect on some lawmakers, she said.

“There was a very loud outcry, much of which was filled with false information,” Robinson said.

Gov. Jay Inslee had said he supported the measure.

Oregon’s proposal, supported by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, would have made that state the third in the country allowing exemptions from immunizations only for medical reasons, and no longer for religious, philosophical or personal reasons. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only other states that have comparable laws in place.

The Oregon bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, of Portland, said opposition there largely revolved around who was right or wrong about the benefits of vaccines and she has decided not to pursue the legislation.

“She strongly believes that making personal choices such as whether or not to vaccinate children are largely a matter of privacy, but — as with all matters of personal choice — we have to be certain that our choices don’t impinge on our neighbors’ health and well-being,” said Paige Spence, Steiner Hayward’s chief of staff.

Several other states have been considering similar bills eliminating personal and philosophical exemptions to vaccinations as dozens of people across the country fell ill from a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 142 people from seven states, including one from Oregon and two from Washington, were linked to the outbreak.

In February, three California lawmakers introduced legislation that would require parents to vaccinate their children before they enter school unless they can’t for medical reasons. That bill has yet to come up before a committee, though Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested he’ll support it.

In Vermont, which is in the top three states for people taking an exemption, a group of lawmakers announced plans last month to introduce legislation eliminating the philosophical exemptions for parents who don’t want their kids immunized, though a similar effort failed three years ago.

In Maine, two bills, one removing philosophical exemptions and one that aims to make it harder for parents to get that exemption, are awaiting a public hearing.