State changes rules on vaccinations
Taking effect July 28, a new state law has removed the personal/philosophical exemption from the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine required for schools and child care.
The Washington State Legislature passed the bill in response to a number of measles cases across the state. King County has the highest count of cases, 10 since May, followed by Pierce County with two. Grant County has no confirmed measles cases currently, according the Grant County Health District website.
The changes in state law no longer allow parents with children attending school to utilize the personal/philosophical exemption for vaccination records. Prior to the bill passing, any parent could forgo the MMR vaccine as their personal or philosophical choice. The change applies to the MMR vaccine only, not other vaccines required by school districts.
According to Kari Hitzroth, a communicable diseases nurse with Grant County Health District, school districts were notified via a preliminary letter about the changes in exemptions in mid-June. Another round of letters were sent near July 28, reminding districts of the new laws. Health officers also called school district superintendents across the county to discuss the changes and answer any questions.
Letters to the parents regarding the new law will be sent out by the schools, said Hitzroth. Any parent or guardian with a child who has not received the necessary vaccinations is notified with a conditional letter stating the records need updating or the correct vaccines administered within a 30-day period. These letters are usually written by school nurses and sent out by administrators.
“It’s a combined effort with the nurses and the administrative staff,” Hitzroth said.
If the child is still not compliant at the end of the 30-day period, the school has the option to exclude the child from class. This decision is made by the school’s principal; however, most schools will opt for a second conditional letter, added Hitzroth.
Each school can have its own deadlines for when records need to be updated; sometimes, months can pass before a student is excluded from class.
Without any immunity, an individual is about 90 percent likely to contract measles if exposed to it, said Hitzroth. However, more than 9 of 10 kindergarteners and 96 percent of sixth-graders in the state have received both suggested doses of the MMR vaccine, according to Washington State Department of Health.
By Miles King, email@example.com