A House committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons.
Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she introduced House Bill 2009 in response to the recent measles outbreak. “These are diseases that were eradicated and are now coming back largely due to the fact that people are choosing to not immunize their children,” she said.
Children in Washington must be vaccinated for school unless they are exempted for medical, religious or personal reasons. Last year, 3.6 percent of school-age children were exempted from vaccinations for non-medical reasons.
Some Washington schools have exemption rates as high 40 percent, said Kathy Lofy of the state Dept. of Health. She worries those schools will serve as “tinderboxes” for diseases that are easily spread through crowds.
Kathy Hennessy of Bellingham said her child caught pertussis from an unvaccinated classmate in preschool. “I’m frustrated that so many people are choosing not vaccinate their children based on misinformation and pseudoscience,” she told legislators.
More than a dozen opponents testified Tuesday, asking lawmakers to keep the personal exemption in place.
Grant Keller said the people who oppose vaccinations are “not conspiracy theorists,” but often well-educated parents with high incomes. “They are capable of reading and digesting scientific information, and they are making informed decisions regarding the health of their children,” he said.
Other parents who testified say they are not immunizing their children because they worry about a negative reaction to the vaccine.
Josh Swenson said drug allergies and sensitivies run in his family, and he worries how vaccines could affect his children. “I’m not wiling to sacrifice my children’s health and future for the good of all,” he said.
If the bill passes, Swenson said his only choices would be to take his children out of public schools or move out of state. “You cannot force me to hurt my child,” he said.