Washington Measles Outbreak

Hayley Royal, Reporter

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Washington state has started the new year off with a measles outbreak reaching up to 54 reported cases, according to the Washington State Department of Health. The spread of this disease has fueled state leaders to reconsider the state’s current laws regarding vaccine requirements for children.

Almost all states, Tennessee included, allow unvaccinated children to enter school with either medical or religious exemptions. California, Mississippi, and West Virginia are the only states that make exemptions based on a medical need only. On the other hand, Washington is part of a small group of 17 states that allows unvaccinated children to enroll in both public and private schools without religious or medical exemptions. Rather, these states make exemptions to the required vaccines-including the MMR vaccine which is considered up to 97% effective in preventing measles-  for children whose parent has a philosophical objection to immunizations. Other states that make this exemption include Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.

The proposition to limit Washington’s vaccine exemption to only those with medical or religious reasons has spurred a debate from both pro-vaccination and anti-vaccination groups. On one hand, those in favor of stricter laws cite herd immunity a major focus of their argument. This concept is a method to protect those with weakened immune systems or individuals who cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons from the dangerous diseases by preventing the spread of the disease through individuals that can be vaccinated. On the other hand, however, those protesting less lenient exemptions claim that vaccines have not been used long enough for scientists and doctors to fully understand all risks involved with the injections. These individuals feel that choosing to not vaccinate their children protects their kids from any of the potential side effects.

While both sides of the argument are making their points louder and more public, the growing number of measles cases has influenced several lawmakers in Washington to lean towards stricter regulations. No decision on whether or not to tighten the policies has been made yet.

(Edited by: Blakely Harrison)

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