Classes are set to resume in Seattle on January 8. Thanks to new changes in Washington state law and a recent measles outbreak, students who are not vaccinated will not be allowed to return to class until they can show proof that they’ve been vaccinated. The school has sent letters to 2,274 students — making their parents aware of the policy.
Washington state had — until recently — allowed “personal preference” as a reason for parents to decline vaccinating their kids. However, this year state legislators changed the law to remove that method of opting out of vaccines. Now, the only exceptions that will be accepted are those that are for health or religious reasons.
Washington has recently been hit hard by a measles outbreak. According to the Washington State Department of Health, two outbreaks of the once-nearly-eradicated disease have resulted in 87 active cases.
As far as Seattle Public Schools spokesman Tim Robinson sees it, these outbreaks are part of the reason unvaccinated kids won’t be allowed through the doors at any school in his district.
“Unfortunately, by state law we have to exclude them,” he said.
If a student who is known to be unvaccinated turns up at school on or after January 8 without documentation that they’ve been vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella, they’ll be “held aside” and a parent or guardian will be contacted to come retrieve them.
The new rule does not apply to kids who are exempt from vaccination requirements due to medical reasons.
Any student who misses school because they’re not vaccinated will be given an unexcused absence.
To make things easier on parents who may not have health insurance or who may not be able to afford having their kids vaccinated, the Seattle Public Schools is offering free vaccination clinics, according to its website.
A generation ago, measles was considered all but eradicated. However, the communicable disease is now back, thanks largely to an increasing percentage of parents who decline to have their children vaccinated.
In 2019, some 1,276 cases of measles have been confirmed in 31 states, the highest number since 1992.
According to The Mayo Clinic, measles can, in some cases, cause ear infections, bronchitis, encephalitis, or pneumonia. The disease is rarely fatal, but pregnant women, the elderly, very young children, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk.