One-year-old Abel Zhang receives the last of three inoculations, including a vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), at the International Community Health Services Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Seattle.
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One-year-old Abel Zhang receives the last of three inoculations, including a vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), at the International Community Health Services Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Washington parents can't opt out of MMR vaccine for philosophical reasons

School districts and private schools are telling parents that they may not have the immunization paperwork they need for their kids to attend school after a new law took effect that does away with the personal or philosophical exemption for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

The state legislature voted to change the law after big measles outbreaks in several Washington counties earlier this year. Most of those sickened were children.

Districts have been notifying families who previously had personal or philosophical MMR exemptions that their kids will need vaccinations or proof of immunity to be in school.

“A few have let us know that they've gone in to get the immunizations and will bring in documentation as we start school on the 28th of August," said Renton Public Schools spokesperson Randy Matheson.

"We're hoping to hear from more families, obviously, so that they can be well in compliance and we can get started with the new school year.”

Children may still get religious or medical exemptions for the MMR vaccine.

The new law also requires workers at licensed daycares to be immunized for measles.

Danielle Koenig with the Washington Department of Health said they’ve been working to inform families and child care providers about the new requirements.

"We've been getting a lot of calls from the public," Koenig said. "Some people are confused about certain parts of it. Other people just aren't sure what the what the law says or not."

The state allows families a 30-day grace period after children start school or licensed child care facilities to update their vaccination records.

Districts are then supposed to keep students out of school or daycare if they lack vaccinations, proof of immunity, or allowed exemptions.