A measles outbreak in Washington state has prompted outcry over exemptions that allow residents to opt out of vaccinations for personal or philosophical reasons.
On Friday, a state House committee advanced a bill to bar these exemptions for the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for school-age kids. The Health Care and Wellness Committee approved the bill given support primarily from Democrats, with the Seattle Times reporting the bill’s sponsor Representative Paul Harris was the lone Republican supporter. It will next head to the House Rules Committee before the full chamber, the Times said.
House Bill 1638 passed with a 10-5 vote with full support from nine Democrats. According to Molly Solomon of Oregon Public Broadcasting, Harris said his faith was questioned over his support of the bill. He also said he was “accused of being a baby killer and that I would go to hell for this bill.”
The outbreak in Washington State led Governor Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency last month amid nearly 30 confirmed cases in Clark County, a figure that’s nearly doubled in the weeks since.
There have been at least 53 cases of measles confirmed in Clark County and one in King County, with investigators looking into three additional suspected cases. Forty-seven of these cases—the majority in small children — have been verified to have affected individuals who were not immunized.
Only two cases in Clark County have been confirmed to be in people older than 18, with 38 cases in children 10 years old or younger. Measles can be fatal in young children.
Even still, disinformation has fuelled outrage in hundreds of anti-vaccination advocates who protested the bill last week outside the State Capitol.
Among those present was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a staunch vaccination critic who met with President Donald Trump in 2017 about investigating wholly unsubstantiated anti-vaxxer claims of a link between vaccines and autism.