Measles Outbreak In Northwest Is Prompting A Reevaluation Of Vaccine Exemptions

As the measles outbreak situated near Portland, Oregon, continues, authorities are now looking into vaccine exemptions as public health officials from across the Pacific Northwest try to minimize the fallout from the measles outbreak.

As a result of this, a bitter debate has erupted over the so-called philosophical reasons against vaccinating children, according to the Associated Press.

The discussion comes ahead of at least 43 people in the Washington and Oregon areas contracting confirmed cases of the measles. Many of these cases, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, are occurring in children under the age of 10 and who are not vaccinated.

As recently as 2000, measles was considered eradicated in the U.S. thanks to the immunization schedule. However, while the disease was considered eradicated, instances of measles are periodically recorded as the disease is bought in from outside the U.S. via travelers who have visited or are from other countries which still present with measles. However, thanks to falling numbers in vaccinations, the U.S., along with other countries who usually don’t record high numbers of the disease due to vaccinations, are now seeing a rise in the disease.

As a result of the continued reporting of new measles cases in the Northwest, Washington Governor Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency.

“I would hope that this ends soon, but this could go on for weeks, if not months,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, who is a public health director in Clark County, Washington, where many of the diagnosed cases have been recorded.

“This is an exquisitely contagious disease,’ he added.

In an effort to combat this, lawmakers in Washington state are now revising non-medical exemptions that “allow children to attend school without vaccinations if their parents or guardians express a personal objection.” Oregon and Washington have “some of the nation’s highest statewide vaccine exemption rates,” AP reports, with 4 percent of Washington secondary school students having non-medical exemptions to vaccines. In Oregon, 7.5 percent of kindergarteners in 2018 were unvaccinated due to non-medical exemptions.

As a result of this, Republican Representative Paul Harris of Vancouver, Washington, is asking for the removal of the personal exemption, specifically for the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR). A public hearing is now scheduled for February 8 in Olympia. Democratic Representative Monica Stonier of Vancouver, who is co-signing the bill, would “prefer an even broader proposal,” but is “looking at what we can get moved” immediately.

“We’re trying to respond to a very specific concern here and recognize that there may be broader concerns we can consider down the road,” Stonier said.

This proposal comes ahead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declaring that the measles outbreak, which is currently occurring in nine states across the U.S., is expected to worsen in the coming months, according to Click On Detroit.

The CDC has traced the current measles outbreak in Washington to an unvaccinated international traveler. As a result of this, they urge those who are unvaccinated, or who are choosing not to vaccinate their children to reconsider.

“Americans who are unvaccinated put themselves, their families and their communities at risk for measles,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who is the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“There aren’t any other alternatives to vaccination. The best way to stop this outbreak in its tracks is to make sure that everybody gets vaccinated.”