The Immunization Debate

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As a response to the high-profile measles outbreak that started in Disneyland last year, on June 30th, California joined Mississippi and West Virginia as one of three states with the nation’s toughest mandatory childhood immunization laws. Under this new law, the exemptions to California’s immunization laws and requirements based on religious or other personal beliefs are no longer available to parents and guardians. Furthermore, children who are not granted a medical exemption must be home-schooled. 

In Washington, RCW 28A.210.090 lists the acceptable exemptions from immunization laws and requirements:

  1. A particular required immunization is not advisable for a child as determined by a health care practitioner;
  2. A parent or legal guardian of a child has religious beliefs which are contrary to the required immunization;
  3. A parent or legal guardian of a child has either a philosophical or personal objection to the immunization of the child.

In March 2015, a Washington bill which would have removed the exemptions available based upon philosophical or personal objections failed in the House. The bill, while supported by Governor Inslee, did not have the necessary votes by a crucial deadline so it was not voted on.

The exemptions available in Washington under religious, philosophical, or personal objection can become problematic for parents who have split up. Many parents have parenting plans that require joint decision-making on various issues, including routine and/or emergency medical care.  If one parent holds different religious, philosophical, or personal beliefs regarding such care, the parents could be forced to return to the legal system for resolution.  Expect to see more defined protocol for routine medical care in future parenting plans as parents and attorneys look to anticipate and resolve potential conflict in advance.


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