A state lawmaker from Everett is sponsoring legislation that would disallow personal belief as sufficent reason for not vaccinating a child.
OLYMPIA — A Washington state lawmaker introduced a bill Wednesday that would not allow personal beliefs to be a sufficient reason to not vaccinate a child.
Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she has 11 co-sponsors, including the chairwoman of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee, which would consider the bill.
Washington now allows vaccination exemptions for medical, personal or religious beliefs. Robinson’s bill would remove the personal-belief allowance.
Robinson, who works for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said the philosophical exemption “just makes it too easy for parents to not think about the effect that they’re having on the community.”
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“I think people really need a legitimate reason to send their kid to school and not have them vaccinated,” she said. “They’re putting the rest of the school, the rest of the community, at risk by doing that.”
The bill was introduced the same day California lawmakers introduced a measure to require all schoolchildren to be vaccinated unless a child’s health is in danger.
The proposal follows a measles outbreak that has sickened more than 100 people across the U.S., including in Washington state, and in Mexico. No deaths have been reported.
Two cases in Washington state have been tied to a Disneyland outbreak. Since then, a King County baby too young to be vaccinated has come down with the disease, and, on Wednesday, health officials reported a man in his 50s from Clallam County as the fourth confirmed case this year. The source of that case is unknown, but it’s not thought to be related to Disneyland, a state health official said.
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.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Washington is among 20 states that allow personal-belief exemptions and 48 that allow religious exemptions.
The state law concerning exemptions was last changed in 2011 to require proof that a parent seeking an exemption had received information from a health-care provider about the benefits and risks of vaccinations. People who can demonstrate membership in a religious group that does not believe in medical treatment are exempted from this requirement.
Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, chairwoman of the committee that the bill will be referred to, said even though the bill has been filed close to a cutoff deadline, she’s hopeful she’ll have time to schedule a hearing on it this month.
Visitor’s measles may affect many
Meanwhile, a Brazilian traveler infected with measles may have exposed people not only at a Seattle hotel and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last month, but also hundreds of fellow passengers on three domestic and international flights.
The Brazilian traveler was contagious before an American Airlines flight from Seattle to Dallas on Jan. 25, and on two more American Airlines flights from Dallas to Miami and Miami to São Paulo, Brazil, both on Jan. 27, officials with Public Health – Seattle & King County said Wednesday.
Before the flight, the passenger was in the common areas of the Sheraton Seattle Hotel, 1400 Sixth Ave., and in the main terminal and concourse D at Sea-Tac.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) typically track and notify people when they discover someone with an infectious disease has traveled by plane. On Wednesday, CDC officials said they had not yet received laboratory results confirming the traveler’s illness. If the case is confirmed, the agency is poised to begin notification, a spokeswoman said.
Officials with Public Health said they were notified of the infection by the traveler’s employer, which has a local office.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that can linger in the air for at least an hour. People who aren’t immune, either through vaccination or previous illness, could have become infected after exposure, with symptoms likely appearing between Feb. 1 and Feb. 15, health officials said.
Symptoms include fever, cough, red and watery eyes and full-body rash.