Washington State is proposing a bill to ban vaccine exemptions amid a growing measles outbreak.
There are 18 states, including Washington, that allow families to skip the protective shots for philosophical or personal reasons.
But health officials say the spread – with 56 cases confirmed in the Pacific Northwest – have reached epidemic levels that warrant declaring a state of emergency.
Now, Monica Stonier, state representative of Clark County, which has 51 cases and 13 more suspected cases alone, is sponsoring a bipartisan bill that she hopes will curb rates.
The bill would have ‘every child at every public and private school in the state and licensed day care center’ receive the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine unless they have a legitimate medical or religious reason not to.
Health officials say the spread – with 56 cases confirmed in the Pacific Northwest – have reached epidemic levels that warrant declaring a state of emergency
‘Right now, my city is the hotbed for this outbreak,’ Stonier told CBS.
‘It certainly has reached a critical state in my county.’
Stonier said 78 percent of under 18-year-olds are vaccinated in Clark County, which neighbors Portland, Oregon – at least 10 percent lower than the ideal.
Anti-vaccination movements have grown across the country in the last decade, prompting panic from the medical community and fiery hit-backs from parents who say they do not trust the medicine.
People infected with the virus have visited several locations in the Portland-Vancouver area including elementary and high schools, parks, churches, urgent care facilities, a Costco and an IKEA.
Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus.
When someone with measles coughs, sneezes or talks, infected droplets are sprayed into the air, where other people can inhale them and are then infected.
Symptoms present themselves between 10 to 14 days after infection and include fever, cough, runny nose and a total-body skin rash.
STATES THAT ALLOW PARENTS TO OPT OUT OF VACCINES BASED ON PHILOSOPHICAL BELIEFS
- Louisiana (except no religious exemptions)
- Minnesota (except no religious exemptions)
- Missouri (only for daycare, not public school)
- North Dakota
STATES THAT RECENTLY REVOKED THIS ALLOWANCE:
- West Virginia
Once common, the disease is now rare due to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children receive the first dose at 12 to 15 months old and the second dose at four to six years old.
The vaccine is about 97 percent effective. But those who are unvaccinated have a 90 percent chance of catching measles if they breathe the virus in, the CDC says.
Before the measles vaccine was available, more than 500,000 cases were diagnosed in the US every year, with about 500 annual deaths.
In 2018, 349 cases of measles were confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia, the CDC reported.
It is the second-greatest number since measles was considered eliminated in the US in 2000.
A report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) last month said measles has seen a 30 percent increase in cases around the world.
Between September 2017 and August 2018, WHO reported more than 41,000 cases with 40 deaths in EU member states.
Experts say the Portland-area and southwest Washington have become a ‘hotspot’ of the anti-vaccine movement.
State data shows that 85.7 percent of students received all their vaccines for the 2017-18 school year, down from 89.8 percent in the 1999-2000 school year.
Additionally, nearly eight percent of children in Clark County were exempt from getting vaccines required for kindergarten for the 2017-18 school year, according to The Oregonian.
A mere 1.2 percent were for medical reasons, while the rest were for ‘conscientious objector’ or ‘philosophical/personal beliefs’.
Washington is far from the only state to be battling a measles outbreak with cases reported in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Oregon and Pennsylvania since January 1.
New York has seen some of the highest numbers with 64 children in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and 130 children and adults in Rockland County falling ill since October 2018 – all in Orthodox Jewish communities.
‘The benefits of the vaccine greatly outweigh the risks,’ said Dan Solmon, the former director of vaccine safety for the Department of Health and Human Services, told CBS.
‘It can cause common problems like otitis media or ear infections, so, you know, measles is a pretty big deal for young children.’