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April 24, 2019

Washington Set to Become 34th State to Ban Personal Exemptions for MMR Vaccines

[Update May 10, 2019: Gov. Inslee has signed the bill, with Alan Melnick, MD, MPH, WSMA member and Public Health Director and Clark County Health Officer, in attendance.]
In a major victory for public health in our state, lawmakers in the Legislature have approved House Bill 1638, which will increase immunization rates in Washington communities by eliminating the personal and philosophical exemption for children's measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The bill now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

The bill passed the Senate last week with a vote of 25 to 22, with two excused, with lawmakers managing to fend off multiple last-minute attempts to water down the bill language with amendments or delay passage altogether. Returning to the House for a final vote, HB 1638 passed out of the Legislature this week with a vote of 56 to 40. WSMA legislative staff expect the governor to sign the bill in the days ahead.

Washington will become the 34th state that disallows personal and philosophical exemptions for MMR vaccinations required for school entries once the governor signs this essential legislation into law. Children with medical contraindications to vaccines can still be granted exemptions.

Physician advocacy has been essential throughout the legislative session in advancing this bill, through testimony before lawmakers, media outreach, and direct action. Thank you to all who have provided testimony and responded to our calls to action on this issue—your actions have made a difference.

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