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Move To Limit Vaccine Exemptions Draws Opposition From Some Parents

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Parents wait to testify against House Bill 2009 during a hearing at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.


Legislative moves to limit school immunization exemptions are drawing vocal opposition from some parents. Opponents of mandatory vaccination crowded a public hearing at the state capitol in Olympia Tuesday, and the scene could repeat itself in Salem Wednesday.

A bill in the Washington legislature would no longer allow schoolchildren to skip vaccinations on personal or philosophical grounds. Religious and medical exemptions would remain.

Meanwhile, some Oregon Senators propose to eliminate all non-medical exemptions.

Josh Swenson joined other parents from across Washington to voice opposition at a state House committee hearing.

"As an informed, educated parent three months away from my sixth college degree, I choose not to inject my children with 83 doses of toxins before kindergarten," Swenson said. "Please don't take away my rights."

State Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said the remaining medical exemption should serve families who fear their children could suffer adverse reactions to vaccines.

As the legislation's prime sponsor, Robinson said she's confident she has the votes to move her measure forward in the Washington legislature later this week. The measure has the support of the Washington State Medical Association and Gov. Jay Inslee.

Robinson says she was motivated to introduce her bill by a measles outbreak this winter that has sickened nearly 150 people across the U.S., including in Washington and Oregon. No deaths have been reported.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.