Schools in the tri-city area of Washington state are enforcing mandatory vaccinations for students in public and private school districts. A law passed in June 2019 has removed philosophical and personal reasons for MMR vaccination exemptions. Students without proof of vaccinations are being excluded from attending school until they receive the necessary vaccinations.
The law was passed after multiple measles outbreaks across the country. Due to its highly contagious nature, the illness needs an incredibly high herd immunity to avoid spreading to the most vulnerable members of the community.
How Many Students Have Been Excluded?
Since schools are required to give families a warning before excluding students, the vast majority of students have complied with the new law. At this point, almost six months after the law passed, fewer than 50 students in the Pasco School District (which serves over 17,000 students) are currently being excluded. Statewide statistics are not yet available.
Who Is Still Exempt?
Students who have religious or medical reasons for being unable to receive vaccinations are still exempt from the MMR shot and will have to fill out an official exemption form. Philosophical and personal exemptions are still acceptable for diphtheria, hep B, Hib, pneumococcal, polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and chickenpox vaccines.
Is This an Attack on Civil Liberties and Personal Freedom?
This raises the question of what you consider personal freedom. If you are free to carry illnesses, you are restricting someone else’s freedom to live by risking their health. If they want to exercise their right to live a full life but are unable to get vaccinated due to health reasons, they might have to restrict your right to not get vaccinated for personal reasons. The question is whether we want to live in a society that only protects those who are already able to protect themselves.