Washington may be under a state of emergency due to the measles outbreak, but that didn’t stop anti-vaxxers from fighting for their right to refuse vaccines. On Friday, nearly 700 people in Olympia protested a proposed bill that would make it more difficult for parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids.
Currently, the state allows exemptions from the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine based on medical reasons or personal, philosophical, or religious beliefs. Under the new bill, sponsored by Representative Paul Harris (R), parents would no longer be able to claim philosophical or personal exemptions.
According to USA Today, Harris, who is from Clark County, the region where the majority of the 52 confirmed measles cases have been reported, residents are “concerned about our community, its immunity and the community safety.”
And Washington state health secretary, John Wiesman, told the crowds who gathered at the bill’s hearing, “I want to remind you that the MMR vaccine is extremely safe and highly effective,” adding that “all reputable scientific studies have found no relation between measles and autism.”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 9, 2019
But despite the growing measles outbreak, which is one of the worst in the state’s history, anti-vaxxers are adamant that they should be able to refuse vaccinations for their children.
“I don’t feel I’m putting my child at risk. There’s nothing that’s going to change my mind on this on that specific vaccination,” mom Monique Murray told CBS News.
Another mother, Mary Holland, who claims her son was injured by vaccinations, says anti-vaxxers will “move out of the state, or go underground, but they will not comply” if the legislation passes, reports The Washington Post. And Nicole Wilson agrees, telling reporters that “[government officials] are not going to change our minds.”
As it stands, Washington remains one of just 17 states that still allow exemptions based on personal or moral beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“In states with tighter exemption laws, there is less suffering, fewer hospitalizations and more deaths averted,” Wiesman reminded the audience at Friday’s hearing. Lawmakers hope to have the new bill in effect throughout the state by April.