VASHON, Wash. — A Vashon doctor believes vaccination rates will continue to improve on the island following a new state law that removes the personal and philosophical exemption for the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine in public schools and daycares.
School districts across Washington state are working to ensure all students that qualify are vaccinated. Medical and religious exemptions for the MMR vaccine remain in place.
The Vashon Island community, a short ferry ride from Seattle, has had traditionally low vaccination rates, but that's on the rise now.
“Historically, Vashon Island has had a vaccine-hesitant population. They’re a population that is interested in natural health,” said Dr. Jessica Wesch, a family medicine doctor for Neighborcare Health.
Wesch has witnessed the small community change course on the vaccine topic.
“It’s unprecedented here. It’s a great success here,” Wesch said.
Two years ago, Washington State Department of Health numbers showed just 61% of kindergartners received complete vaccinations on Vashon Island. Last school year, the rates jumped to 73%.
Wesch believes those numbers will continue to rise.
“Our commitment is to reduce barriers to care. And if one of those barriers to care... is concerns about vaccines, we want to reduce that fear and we want families to come in and talk to us,” she said.
Part of that is helped by the new legislation passed this year. Parent must vaccinate their children to enroll in school in Washington state, unless they file a religious or medical exemption.
The Vashon Island School District says it’s working with parents to make sure all immunization records are in place in the coming weeks.
“I think the discussions leading up to the laws passing has had families bring their concerns to healthcare providers, it’s opened the door to really important conversations to happen,” Wesch said.