Parents speak out against House bill that would limit vaccination exemptions in state

OLYMPIA -- In a committee hearing room at the state Capitol, parents spoke out Tuesday against a House bill that would limit the exemptions a parent could use for not vaccinating their children in Washington state.

Currently, parents can opt out of vaccinations for their kids for religious, health or personal beliefs.

House Bill 2009, introduced by State Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, would remove the 'personal beliefs' option. It was heard before the House Health Care & Wellness Committee Tuesday morning.

"The issue before us today is about personal freedom," one parent told the committee.

"People should be able, should be allowed, to make their own choices when it comes to health care," another said.

According to the state Health Department, the personal belief exemption is by far the most used in the state to opt out of vaccinations. Washington state has one of the highest exemption rates in the country -- at 4.6%, it's more than triple the national average.

Robinson says it`s up the government to keep our community safe.

"We as individuals need to be responsible for our own health, but we also need to think about how our actions affect those around us," Robinson said.

Health officials, far outnumbered at Tuesday's hearing, said vaccines against childhood illnesses are not foolproof but are effective and can sometimes save lives.

"The danger is real, every unvaccinated child is a health risk to our community," one said.

But some parents argued that mom and dad know best, not the government.

"Please don't take away my rights and please don't pass this bill," one parent said.

Tuesday's hearing was just the first for this bill.