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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Senate panel votes to narrow vaccine exemptions

Opponents to efforts to remove philosophical exemptions from school-vaccine requirements rally outside the  Capitol in Olympia, Wash., on Wednesday, Feb. 20,2019. Lawmakers are considering two measures, one that would remove the exemption from the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, and another that would not allow personal or philosophical exemptions to be granted for any required school vaccinations. (Rachel La Corte / AP)

OLYMPIA – Washington would remove the personal and philosophical exemptions for all vaccinations required for school children under a bill sent to the Senate on Friday.

The Senate Health And Long Term Care Committee went a step farther than its House counterpart, which recently voted to remove the personal and philosophical exemption for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations in the wake of a measles outbreak in Clark County.

The Senate bill would add vaccinations for chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and hepatitis B to the list of diseases that could only be exempted for religious or medical reasons. Under current law, parents can refuse all of those vaccines, plus the MMR vaccine, by signing a statement saying they have a philosophical or personal objection to the immunization of their child.

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, said a recent hearing showed strong views on both sides of the vaccination debate, but it was unclear to some Republicans on the committee the current system of exemptions was responsible for the “serious health risk uptick.”

Committee Chairwoman Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, disagreed.

“The proof is actually, Sen. O’Ban, that we no longer have the eradication of these diseases,” she said, adding that the vaccines were considered miraculous when released when she was a child and “we need to embrace the miracle that they are.”

The committee approved the proposal on a party-line vote.