by Emma Epperly
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Both state legislative houses agreed to remove personal exemption to the measles vaccine April 23, and to send the legislation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
In the House concurrence floor vote, Rep. Vickie Kraft, R-Vancouver, said, “This just essentially forces more vaccinations on students that may not need it.”
Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, encouraged the House to not concur because she said it “sets a precedent” for the majority and the Senate to remove amendments that had previously been negotiated.
Ultimately, the House concurred with a 56-40 vote. In a late-night party-line vote, the Washington Senate approved the removal of the personal exemption for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on April 18.
Senate Republicans used parliamentary stalling techniques the evening of the vote in hopes the bill would not be read into the record before the 5 p.m. deadline to pass bills from the other chamber. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib said 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,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, of the attempt to kill the bill.
There is a measles outbreak in Clark County with 73 confirmed cases. In January, Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to the outbreak.
Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, however, 555 cases have been reported in 2019 nationwide.
Children in Washington are required to have the MMR vaccine to attend a school or day care center. 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.
House Bill 1638’s prime sponsor, Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, was the only Republican sponsor. The House voted 57-40 to approve the bill on March 5.
WNPA reporter Madeline Coats contributed to this story.