The Washington state Senate narrowly passed a measure late Wednesday that would make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children against measles in response to the state’s worst outbreak in more than two decades.
The bill, which would eliminate personal or philosophical exemptions from the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, is a victory for public health advocates who had not expected it to make it to the floor.
The measure passed 25 to 22 in the Democratic-controlled chamber, after being brought to the floor just minutes before the legislative deadline. No Republicans voted in favor, and two Democrats voted against.
The bill is expected to pass the House, where a nearly identical measure was approved last month, and be signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee (D). It would be the first time in four years a state has removed personal exemptions in the face of growing anti-vaccine sentiment. California and Vermont removed personal exemptions in 2015. Other states have tightened vaccination requirements but have not removed exemptions.
The bill’s 11th-hour passage in the Senate comes as the resurgent disease approaches record numbers and other states weigh similar legislation to close loopholes or eliminate personal or religious exemptions from vaccination requirements.
Inslee, who pushed lawmakers to support the measure, is running for president on a platform centered on evidence-based science and climate change. The vaccine debate has pitted advocates of science and public health, who reflect the majority of Americans who support vaccinations, against a minority of anti-vaccine activists, who raise issues of personal choice and false claims about vaccines.
The stricter rule would apply only to immunizations for measles, mumps and rubella. Parents would still be able to cite personal or philosophical exemptions to avoid other required school vaccinations for their children. Religious and medical exemptions will still be allowed for all vaccinations, including MMR.
Advocates and lawmakers were able to overcome strong lobbying by anti-vaccine groups, which are among the most vocal and organized in the country. Those groups mobilized hundreds of supporters, who telephoned and sent emails to lawmakers,turned out for public hearings and proposed poison-pill amendments, intended to weaken a bill or ruin its chances of passing.
Republicans appeared to be close to killing the bill before a last-minute flurry of action..Read More at Wahington Post