In 2019, 87 people in Western Washington, mostly in Kent and Issaquah were infected in two measles outbreaks. Measles, a highly infectious airborne virus, is a disease that was almost gone from the developed world, but still directly responsible for tens of thousands of deaths a year. Indirectly, a measles infection can suppress the immune system for months to years after recovery, opening up the chance of other disease or infection. It is currently on the rise again in the U.S. due to anti-vaccination hysteria.
In response to this outbreak and the misinformation about vaccination being spread in Washington and across the nation, the Washington state legislature passed HB 1638, a law that removed the “personal and/or philosophical exemption” from the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine required for school attendance. The new vaccination law still allows for religious or medical exemptions, but these must be certified, either by a doctor or a member of clergy signing a Certificate of Exemption.
In order to ensure compliance with the new vaccination law, the Seattle Public School district has updated its vaccination requirements. Its website reads, “Student records must reflect updated immunization status by January 8, 2020, or students cannot attend school until the required information is provided to the school nurse.”
Absences from school due to not having proper vaccinations will be counted as unexcused absences. Once immunization compliance is complete and the student has returned to school, the absences will be changed to excused. Students receiving special education services are being treated the same as all other students regarding their immunization status.
That said, the city’s schools are trying to make it as easy as possible for children to get the appropriate vaccinations. There are 28 school-based health centers in Seattle public schools, and the nurses at these clinics will be able to help families of students who still need their shots.
The district has offered free immunization clinics at schools across the region. In hopes of removing barriers for children of undocumented and uninsured families, people were not required to provide proof of insurance or citizenship in order to get vaccinated.
Before vaccination against the measles began in the early 1960s, there were 400 to 500 deaths and close to 50,000 hospitalizations from measles every year. In addition, about 4,000 people developed measles encephalitis, a swelling of the brain that can lead to permanent damage, including deafness. “It’s an incredibly serious disease that can have a lot of complications, and we’ve already had one child hospitalized out of the cases here,” Dr. Alan Melnick, director of public health for Clark County, Washington, the epicenter of the measles outbreak, told NPR.
Measles is no joke, no matter what anti-vax parents say. If your child is healthy, there’s no excuse not to get the MMR vaccination. If you don’t, you are, to put it plain and simple, just being a selfish jerk. There are kids who can’t get vaccines for medical reasons, and you’re endangering those kids, who have just as much of a right to an education as yours do. Washington’s new vaccination law makes school safe for everyone.