Bill eliminating personal exemption from measles vaccination heads to Gov. Inslee's desk

Emma Epperly
WNPA News Bureau

Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to remove the personal exemption from measles vaccinations following state House of Representative concurrence with an amended bill previously passed by the Senate.
Amended House Bill 1638 passed, 56-40, mostly along a party-line vote.
“This just essentially forces more vaccinations on students that may not need it,” Rep. Vickie Kraft, R-Vancouver, said during House floor debate Tuesday.
Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, encouraged the House to reject the bill because it sets a precedent for the majority and the Senate to remove amendments that had previously been negotiated.
In a late night April 18 party-line vote, the Senate approved the removal of the personal exemption for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine .
Senate Republicans used parliamentary techniques the evening of the vote to try to keep it from being read into the record before the 5 p.m deadline to pass bills from the other chamber.
Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib believed enough of the bill had been read into the record and the proceedings continued with 18 proposed amendments.
None of the floor amendments passed. However, the bill did narrowly pass in a 25-22 vote.
“I don’t know of any minority that hasn’t used a number of tools at their disposal in the final hours,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said of the attempt to kill the bill.
The bill awaiting the governor's signature comes amid recent outbreaks around the country.
An outbreak of 73 confirmed cases in Clark County prompted Inslee in January to declare a state of emergency.
Health officials declared measles eradicated in the U.s. in 2000; however, 555 cases have been reported this year alone nationwide.
Under existing state law, children in Washington are required to have the MMR vaccine to attend a school or daycare. Parents must provide proof of full immunization or documentation of an exemption.
Under this new legislation, religious and medical exemptions are still valid, but those who previously had a personal exemption would be required to vaccinate their children if they want them to attend daycare or public school.
Proponents of the legislation said their goal is to reach “herd immunity.”
That's when a very high percentage of the population is vaccinated, making it more difficult for those who medically cannot have the vaccine get the disease, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the state Department of Health, full immunization includes vaccines for chickenpox, diphtheria, measles, German measles, haemophilus influenzae type B disease, hepatitis B, mumps, pneumococcal disease, polio, tetanus and whooping cough.
According to Sen. Linda Wilson, R-Vancouver , the science is not settled on the issue. She cited issues with the pertussis vaccine in her floor speech as a reason to look at the side effects of vaccines.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said without this measure there is “the potential for needless suffering,” if measles outbreaks continue. Cleveland called a vote against this bill, “a vote against public health.”
Groups of personal exemption supporters have been protesting on the capitol campus throughout the session, including a protest on the steps of the Capitol Building the morning of April 18 prior to the Senate vote. During the floor debate, many senators referenced the large volume of constituent emails they have received on the issue.

— WNPA reporter  Madeline Coats contributed to this story.