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New state law removes MMR vaccine exemptions based on personal or philosophical objections

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center entrance (November 2016). Photo: My Ferndale News

FERNDALE, Wash. — The Ferndale School District said they have mailed letters to those who in the past cited a personal or philosophical exemption to the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The letter was to inform them about a new law that will go into effect July 28th that removes the personal and philosophical exemption options.

The Washington State Legislature passed a bill earlier this year that removes the personal and philosophical option to exempt children from the MMR vaccine required for school and child care entry. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on May 10th and will go into effect this Sunday.

The bill also requires employees and volunteers at childcare centers to provide immunization records indicating they have received the MMR vaccine or proof of immunity.

The MMR vaccine requires two separate shots that must be received several weeks apart.

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If a child has only received 1 of the 2 shots by the first day of school, the Washington State Department of Health says they will be able to attend school on a conditional status for 30 days during which time they must get the second shot. If they do not, they will not be allowed to continue attending school until they do.

Before this law, students and families could cite personal or philosophical objections to being required to be vaccinated in order to attend school or child care.

Families are still allowed to request a religious membership exemption if they belong to a religious body or church whose beliefs prevent them from seeking medical treatment for their child. Medical exemptions identified by a healthcare provider can also temporarily or permanently exempt a child from any vaccine for a medical reason. 

Washington State has experienced 2 measles outbreaks this year. According to the Washington State Department of Health, an outbreak began on May 9 in three Puget Sound counties. It was determined the initial exposure was at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Thursday, April 25th. A previous outbreak began in January and lasted through March and was mostly confined to Clark County. As of July 16th, there had been 85 confirmed cases of measles in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Clark Counties. Of those 85 patients, 67 had not been vaccinated.

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