Some Washington lawmakers pushing for vaccine mandate for childhood illnesses

OLYMPIA -- With more than a 100 confirmed measles cases across 14 states, including Washington, some Washington lawmakers want to make vaccines a requirement.

“These are infectious childhood diseases that we should not be seeing again,” state Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said Friday.

Robinson added that the recent measles spike is mainly caused by parents who are not vaccinating their kids.

“The vast majority of parents choosing exemptions are in that personal philosophical category,” Robinson said.

Robinson introduced a bill this week hoping to get rid of that 'personal beliefs' exemption.

Parents will still be allowed to opt out of vaccines using religious or medical reasons.

“Vaccination rates in some of our communities are pretty low,” Robinson said.

In 2008, Washington led the country in vaccine exemptions for kindergarteners. The exemption rates are lower now but some communities still have high rates, including north Seattle, Arlington, Vashon Island and Bellevue.

The state Health Department wants at least a 95% vaccination rate.

“Parents should have their kids vaccinated for the public health and community; it just makes common sense and the science is all in,” Naki Stevens said.

But others say parents should have the right to choose, not the government.

“I like having the choice. They are my kids, right? Just having a choice is a good thing,” parent Robert Wiggins said.

Many parents are exercising that right, like Michael Belkin.

“Vaccines are failing because it’s buggy whipped technology,” Belkin said.

Belkin’s kids go to private school and they have not received any vaccines.

“I wouldn’t want them to spread it to anyone else certainly; we would certainly keep them away so they couldn’t spread it,” Belkin said.

No matter where you stand, the debate is front and center.

“It’s going to be a huge and tough debate on what’s right for everyone,” Lynda Zeman said.

Robinson said it’s the government’s responsibility to protect the community, especially the ones who are most vulnerable to diseases.

“It’s more than just about the individual’s choice,” Robinson said.