State lawmakers advance bill to ban personal exemptions from vaccines

SEATTLE – The number of reported cases of measles continues to increase. Two other cases have been reported in Clark County. This now brings the total number of cases to 62 in the state of Washington (61 cases in Clark County, 1 case in King County).

State health officials continue to urge the public to be vaccinated against measles, while state legislators are striving to ensure that such an epidemic never happens again.

A bill that would ban personal exemptions from vaccines took a step closer to a full vote.

"I think that's the right thing. And I think the vast majority will agree with me, "said Representative Paul Harris, representative of the 17th district.

As the only Republican who supports and sponsors the bill, Representative Harris said that people who get the MMR vaccine are obvious.

"I find it's a strange argument, to be quite frank, that you do not want to be vaccinated against these diseases that many other countries claim," he said.

House Bill 1638 has just come out of the health and wellness committee. He is now going to the Rules Committee of the House. When he is adopted, he will then move to the floor of the house for a full vote.

For Harris, it is not a partisan but more personal issue. It's in his county of Clark County that the measles outbreak is hitting the hardest.

"Many families of children with compromised immune systems, heart transplants or liver or children treated for cancer who can not be vaccinated. They are very worried, "said Harris.

However, some are concerned about parental rights.

The representative of the Republican state, Joe Schmick, recently declared in a letter to his constituents, saying that he believed that everyone should be vaccinated, but that he also felt that "such decisions are best borne by the parents and their doctor ".

"The freedoms of health care and the rights of parents are two issues we should not take lightly," he said.

Governor Jay Inslee also supports the bill.

"The damage is so great and the vaccination so effective. It is a very effective vaccine (…). We all have the right decision to call for the protection of all our children, "said Inslee.

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

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