New state law removes popular immunization exemption, requires more students be vaccinated for measles before new school year

A new state law may decrease the number of Washington state students attending school without MMR vaccinations.

Following a measles outbreak earlier this year, the Washington State legislature passed a bill removing the “personal and philosophical” exemption (the most used option) that allowed parents to exempt kids from the vaccines required to attend school and childcare. Two other vaccination exemptions – medical and religious – are NOT impacted.

The Snoqualmie Valley School District is warning families of the new law that takes effect on July 28, 2019 – and applies to all public and private schools, as well as childcare facilities – to allow families sufficient time to meet the immunization requirement before school resumes in September.

Per the district’s announcement: “Two doses of MMR are required for all students in grades K-12. The two doses must be given at least 28 days apart. When your child has a first MMR vaccination, please let your school nurse know the date it occurred as well as the date the second dose is administered.”

According to the Department of Health, in the 2017-18 school year (most recent tracked data by state), 6.6% of SVSD students had vaccination exemptions, with the vast majority – 5.8% – using the ‘personal and philosophical’ exemption. In total, 305 SVSD students specifically had exemptions for the MMR vaccine that year.

In 2017-18, 91.5% of Snoqualmie students met immunization requirements, 6.6% had exemptions and the remainder were considered in ‘non-compliance’ with vaccination requirements. SVSD surpassed the statewide average of 4.7% for immunization exemptions.

Immunization rates in neighboring school districts: Issaquah: 95.5% had immunizations, 3.7% had exemptions, of which 2.8% were personal; Riverview: 87.1% had immunizations, 9.5% had exemptions, of which 8.5% were personal; Tahoma: 94% had immunizations, 4.2% had exemptions, of which 3.5% were personal.

Washington State has a 95% vaccination coverage rate target, but few districts statewide actually meet that target. The 95% target rate was established because nearly all students have to be vaccinated to effectively prevent the spread of most diseases.

The Department of Health said new law will not affect most students, with more than 9 out of 10 kindergartners in Washington having completed both doses of MMR vaccine, and 96 percent of 6th graders having both doses. 

The law also requires requires employees and volunteers at childcare centers to provide immunization records indicating they have received the MMR vaccine or proof of immunity.

According to the district announcement, there is also a free resource offered through HealthPoint, who partnered with Public Health, to offer free Measles vaccinations for adults and children, plus all vaccines required for school.  

HealthPoint clinics offer free, walk-in MMR vaccination services at HealthPoint Auburn, Auburn North, Bothell, Cynthia A. Green, Federal Way, Kent, Midway, Redmond, Renton, SeaTac, and Tukwila. You do not need to be a current HealthPoint patient. Learn more at:

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