New bill would remove personal objection from measles vaccine

In the midst of a measles outbreak in southern Washington, state legislators introduced a bill that would eliminate personal exemptions for the MMR vaccine.

On Monday, health officials said there were 35 confirmed measles cases in Washington, including 34 in Clark County and one in King County. Doctors said the majority of the sick children weren’t immunized.

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State Rep. Paul Harris said new measures need to be taken to protect people from the disease.

“To be quite frank, we should get rid of all personal exemptions for all vaccines,” he said.

Harris introduced House Bill 1638. It aims to put pressure on parents to vaccinate their children by eliminating the personal objection that allows students to go to school without the MMR vaccine.

“We are one of only 18 states that has a personal exemption left, so in the vast majority of the United States, you do not get a personal exemption,” said Harris.

The Washington State Department of Health said there were more than 41,000 personal immunization exemptions last school year. More than 33,000 students didn’t get the MMR vaccine.

“We know that this disease, this outbreak, is completely preventable. We have people in our communities that are incredibly susceptible to, not only this, but other diseases, who are not protected because of the high number of people who are not vaccinated,” said state Rep. Monica Stonier.

Bernadette Pajer, co-president of Informed Choice Washington, believes the MMR vaccine puts kids in danger.

“This bill takes away our freedom and says you have to take this flawed product, or your kid can’t go to school. That is so wrong,” she said.

Pajer said her child had serve reactions to vaccines as an infant. She believes parents should have a choice.

“We’re never going to give up, this is my life’s mission now. You know, mama bear, you get an injured child,” she said.

Families would still be able to use medical and religious reasoning to be excused from immunizations.

A similar bill that aimed to get rid of the personal objection for all vaccines failed in 2015.