As his mother Wenyi Zhang holds him, one-year-old Abel Zhang looks at the book being given him by Dr. Lauren Lawler, right, as his grandmother Ding Hong helps with his clothes moments after the child received the last of three inoculations, including a vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Washington lawmakers advance limits on vaccine exemptions

Legislation comes amid an outbreak that has sickened more than 50 people in the Pacific Northwest

Washington state lawmakers advanced a measure Friday that would remove parents’ ability to claim a personal or philosophical exemption to vaccinating their school-age children for measles as the Pacific Northwest struggles with an outbreak of the contagious virus.

The House Health Care and Wellness Committee approved House Bill 1638 on a 10-5 vote. The full House could vote on it in the coming weeks.

The legislation comes amid an outbreak that has sickened more than 50 people in the Pacific Northwest and led Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency. Health officials have reported at least 54 known cases in Washington state and four in Oregon.

Washington is among 17 states, including Oregon, that allow some type of non-medical vaccine exemption for “personal, moral or other beliefs,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

READ MORE: Third measles case in Vancouver prompts letter to parents

Washington now allows vaccination exemptions for children at public or private schools or licensed day-care centres based on medical, religious and personal or philosophical beliefs. Unless an exemption is claimed, a child is required to be vaccinated against or show proof of acquired immunity for nearly a dozen diseases — including polio, whooping cough and mumps — before they can attend school or a child care centre.

Hundreds of people who oppose ending the exemptions, including environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., showed up at a public hearing on the legislation last week.

A broader measure introduced in the state Senate, which would not allow personal or philosophical exemptions to be granted for any required school vaccinations, is scheduled for a public hearing next Wednesday.

Four per cent of Washington secondary school students have non-medical vaccine exemptions, the state Department of Health said. Of those, 3.7 per cent of the exemptions are personal, and the rest are religious.

In Clark County — an area just north of Portland, Oregon, where all but one of the Washington cases are concentrated — 6.7 per cent of kindergartners had a non-medical exemption for the 2017-18 school year, health officials said.

READ MORE: Measles outbreak in Washington state spurs warning from BC Centre for Disease Control

California removed personal belief vaccine exemptions for children in both public and private schools in 2015 after a measles outbreak at Disneyland sickened 147 people and spread across the U.S. and into Canada. Vermont also abandoned its personal exemption in 2015.

Rachel La Corte, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Pass Creek farmers encouraged to plan ahead to save animals

Firesmart info session planned for Monday, June 24 at Pass Creek Community Hall

RDCK chair: No comment on Castlegar Mayor’s FCM trip

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference costs about $3,600 per delegate

Three times the love: Identical triplets return home to Nelson

Katherine van der Veen gave birth to Ainsley, Olivia and Abigail last month

Nakusp bust finds drugs, guns, stolen property

Woman released on promise to appear in court in October.

More passengers travelling through West Kootenay Regional Airport

First quarter reliability and passenger numbers up at Castlegar’s Airport

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read