VANCOUVER – Today Governor Jay Inslee signed EHB 1638, updating Washington state’s school and child care immunization requirements to remove the personal/philosophical exemption for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
“Measles outbreaks across the US demonstrate why this bill is so vitally important. As a nation, we must step up our leadership to educate the public about the critical role vaccines have in keeping us healthy and safe, and continue working with communities to improve vaccination rates,” said Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “We’re grateful for the Legislature and Governor Inslee’s dedication to protecting public health and for the leadership of Representative Harris and Senator Cleveland.”
The Department of Health will work with schools and child cares to make sure they are ready to take in students, track records and guide parents through the new law. The law takes effect July 28, 2019 and applies to public and private schools and child cares.
The department will also work to ensure parents and guardians are well-informed and prepared to get the right immunizations to comply with the law before they send their children to school or child care. Most parents choose to vaccinate their children and will not be affected by the changes.
Studies show the existence of personal belief exemptions, and the ease of getting them, is directly linked to reduced vaccination rates and a growing incidence of disease, particularly measles.
In the 2017-2018 school year, the kindergarten exemption rate in Washington was more than twice the national average. In addition, children with non-medical exemptions tend to live and go to school in geographic clusters. Across the state, there are areas with high exemption levels and pockets of under-vaccinated children at risk of outbreaks.
The law also includes a new requirement for employees and volunteers at child care centers to provide records indicating they have received the MMR vaccine or proof of immunity. The requirement will help protect the young children they work with, who are most vulnerable to disease.
More information on the implementation of the law will be available soon on the Department of Health’s website. If you need to check whether you or your child meets the MMR vaccine requirements, there are several ways you can access your family’s immunization records.