Editor's note: The above video is from a story in May 2019 regarding measles in schools.
Under a new law that takes effect Sunday, parents in Washington state will no longer be able to cite philosophical or personal beliefs to exempt their children from the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine that's required for attendance at private and public schools and day care centers.
More than 80 cases of measles have been reported in the state this year, with the 10 most recent cases reported in King County between May and mid-July. A previous outbreak was centered in southwestern Washington, where a majority of the cases involved children age 10 and younger.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1,100 cases of measles have been confirmed in 30 states this year, with the majority of the cases reported in New York.
Washington was one of three states that passed legislation this year in response to measles outbreaks. Maine removed personal and religious belief exemptions for public school immunization requirements earlier this year, and New York removed religious exemptions last month.
California removed non-medical 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 abandoned its personal exemption that same year. Other than California, Mississippi and West Virginia are the only other states that don't allow either a religious or philosophical exemption.
Washington is now among just 15 states that allow some type of non-medical vaccine exemption for personal or philosophical beliefs. In addition, medical and religious exemptions exist for attendance at the state's public or private schools or licensed day-care centers and those two exemptions for the combined MMR vaccine remain in place under the measure passed by the Washington Legislature earlier this year. The new law also requires staff and volunteers of licensed child care centers to be immunized against measles.
Unless an exemption is claimed, children are required to be vaccinated against or show proof of acquired immunity for nearly a dozen diseases — including polio, whooping cough and measles — before they can attend school or go to child care centers.
The state Department of Health said that statewide, 4% of Washington K-12 students have non-medical vaccine exemptions. Of those, 3.7% of the exemptions are personal, and the rest are religious.
The vaccine exemption bill was one of nearly 500 bills passed during the 105-day legislative session that concluded at the end of April. While dozens of the measures have varying effective dates, more than 400 of those bills take effect Sunday.