Capitol Alert

Mandatory vaccine bills fail in Oregon, Washington

A pediatrician vaccinates a 1-year-old with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) shot in Northridge in January.
A pediatrician vaccinates a 1-year-old with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) shot in Northridge in January. AP

Legislatures in two states this week backed away from bills that would require more kids to get vaccinated, measures similar to one pending in California.

Democratic lawmakers in Oregon and Washington introduced bills this year to make it tougher for parents to opt out of getting their children common vaccines, an idea proposed in California’s Senate Bill 277 in response to a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland.

The Washington bill died in its state House on Thursday when the author failed to bring it up for a vote before a key deadline, the Associated Press reported. The Oregon bill stalled after one public hearing, and its author told the Statesman Journal on Wednesday that she didn’t have enough votes to move forward.

Opponents of mandatory vaccines saw the bills’ defeats in other West Coast states as a glimmer of hope for their opposition to SB 277 in California.

“There really was quite a response to the families in Oregon, which is a much smaller state than we are,” said Rebecca Estepp of Poway, spokeswoman for a group called the California Coalition for Health Choice, which opposes mandatory vaccines.

“All eyes of the nation should have been on Oregon because I think you are going to find the same in states around the country.”

As the nation grapples with outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, a dozen states are considering bills this year to change their vaccine requirements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many of them would require more notice of schools’ immunization rates or revoke rules that allow parents to exempt their kids from vaccines for non-medical reasons, such as based on their philosophical or religious beliefs.

The California bill by Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica has already drawn vociferous support and opposition from parents with dueling views on the safety of vaccines. Its first hearing is set for April 8 in the Senate Health Committee.

Pan said the failure of similar bills in Washington and Oregon will not derail his measure.

“I have confidence in my colleagues,” Pan said. “When they have the science and the truth about why we need this to protect public safety and stop preventable diseases, we will prevail.”

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.