Students without MMR vaccine face exclusion
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Soon, some students may be excluded from school if they are not yet in compliance with the new vaccination law.
The new law erases the philosophical exemption for a vaccination that protects against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
Personal exemption for other vaccines still exist, Danielle Koenig, a supervisor with the state Department of Health. Only the MMR exemption was changed by House Bill 1638, a law that was unveiled one month before the state’s second outbreak was playing out. Religious and medical exemptions for the vaccine are still valid, Koenig said. Medical exemptions can include life-threatening allergies, such as to eggs used to develop a vaccine. Also listed as reasons to not get a vaccine are tuberculosis, a recent blood transfusion or a weakened immune system, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Snohomish schools reached out to the 470 families with students who were out of compliance and have that number down to 130, said district spokeswoman Kristin Foley. That’s “all immunizations, not just MMR,” Foley said. The process of securing medical appointments slowed things for some, and language barriers were also a challenge, Foley said.
Snohomish schools will continue to call and follow up with a certified letter, giving families 30 days from the date of the letter to complete the immunization process.
Everett School District communication coordinator Jennifer Goodhart said this year was no different than other school years. She said the vaccination rate in Everett schools is close to high. Currently only 86 students are out of compliance with all vaccines; MMR numbers were not available. Exclusions started on Monday, Nov. 4, but only 24 students were excluded from class for noncompliance, she said.
The law excludes unvaccinated students from public and private schools as well as day cares, but all are free to be in public places and government buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
“There are no requirements for just being a person in the state of Washington,” Koenig said, adding “the majority of kids in Washington are fully vaccinated.”
Measles is highly contagious and potentially fatal for infants, health officials say.
Last year’s measles outbreak that spurred the new law was the largest nationwide measles outbreak in more than two decades. In 31 states measles sickened 1,200 Americans. Children between the ages of 1 and 10 made up most of the reported cases, according to the DOH data. The concentration of this state’s outbreak was Vancouver, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland, where only four cases were reported in a city with a population of 650,000.
Parents opt out of the mainstream medical prevention offered by vaccines for a variety of reasons, some scientifically founded and some not. Those opposed to vaccination are a minimally represented segment in state, county and local school district data, with 6 percent claiming a personal exemption in Snohomish schools and 4 percent in Monroe.
The Snohomish County rate for personal exemption to vaccines is nearly 5 percent; slightly higher than the state percentage. No opponents to the new law have contacted the Tribune, in spite of requests for contact via social media and other means.
The state vaccination rate exceeds 85 percent with a match at the county level. Snohomish and Monroe closely align with those percentages as well.
The shot is recommended pediatric care with the first due between the ages of 1 year to 15 months, and the second between the ages of 4 and 6. The new law also requires proof of vaccination for day care workers and volunteers. Independent contractors are exempt but encouraged to vaccinate.
This year’s outbreak was a reminder of what vaccination prevents: a viral illness that impacts the respiratory system and is contagious enough that “up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected,” the CDC states. It passes from one person to the next much like the common cold does. Sneezing can contaminate the air and surfaces.
Most of the 100,000 deaths tied to measles worldwide are children under the age of 5, the CDC states.
Vaccine risks for most children are non-dangerous but sometimes uncomfortable. Common side effects include soreness and swelling at the shot-site, as well as fever, mild rash and temporary joint pain. The MMR has a small risk of feverish seizures that are not linked to long-term effects, but can be frightening to parents. The fear of a link between MMR and autism started in 1998 when a study was released discussing it: it was later found that the doctor who released that study had a financial interest tainting his research, but the information continued to ripple. The autism risk has been exhaustively studied since, and researchers have found no link between the two.
The bill and the process for its implementation is available through the state legislature’s website. For those unable to vaccinate children due to financial reasons, the DOH offers a free option through their Childhood Vaccine Program.
Some area clinics participating in the DOH’s Childhood Vaccination Program are Western Washington Medical Group, The Everett Clinic (all sites), Sea Mar clinics, Molina Medical Care, EvergreenHealth Monroe hospital, Providence clinics and the Community Health Centers of Snohomish County. The Safeway store on Broadway in Everett also participates with providing adult vaccines, as do some naturopathic clinics.
The Snohomish Health District no longer offers immunization clinics.
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