PORTLAND, Ore. — Amid a historic measles outbreak infecting more than 60 people in Clark County, Washington, three separate efforts to ban or restrict non-medical vaccine exemptions are gaining steam in Oregon and Washington.
Two of the bills are in Washington.
On Friday, Washington’s Health Care and Wellness Committee advanced House Bill 1638 to the House Rules Committee. The bill, if passed, would ban personal or philosophical exemptions specifically for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
A second broader bill, proposed in the state Senate, would ban personal or philosophical exemptions for all school-required vaccines, not just MMR.
On Wednesday afternoon, people from both sides of the argument packed a hearing on SB 5841.
“Most vaccine exemptions in this state are philosophical and measles which was once declared eradicated in this state is back with a vengeance, which means we have taken one of the greatest public health successes of the 20th century and essentially thrown it asunder,” said Dr. Robyn Rogers, a pediatrician.
“When we begin mandating and legislating medical procedures, patient care suffers, because we are no longer allowing the doctor patient relationship to guide best and safe practice,” said Jill Collier, a registered nurse.
In Oregon, a similar bill is expected to be introduced Thursday or Friday, according to state Representative Mitch Greenlick.
He said, if passed, it will get rid of all non-medical exemptions in Oregon, including religious ones.
The bill would not infringe on religious freedom, he argued, because parents could still choose not to vaccinate their kids. They just wouldn’t be able to send them to Oregon’s schools.
Verify: Measles outbreak in Clark County
Rep. Greenlick said Wednesday he was fed up lending credence to rumors on the internet claiming vaccines are dangerous.
His frustration peaked, he said, in light of the outbreak.
“I think it makes it a real instead of a theoretical problem,” he said. “We still have people who don't believe in climate change or fluoridating water because they get this junk science off the internet.”
The bills also comes amid mounting pressure from the Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNN if states didn’t tighten their “lax” exemption laws, the feds may have to step in and do it for them.
"You could mandate certain rules about what is and isn't permissible when it comes to allowing people to have exemptions," he said.