SOUND OFF: Disallow personal exemption for vaccinations

  • Tuesday, February 26, 2019 10:21pm
  • Opinion

By the Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island

We, the pediatricians and nurse practitioners of Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island, express our strong support for House Bill 1638 and Senate Bill 5841, which would remove exemptions for state-mandated vaccines for school attendance.

Washington state needs to stop personal exemptions, which allow misinformed parents an easy out. Vaccines are truly the victims of their own success. The science is very clear: vaccines are safe and effective.

Vaccines prevent serious diseases that are potentially disabling, or even deadly. With the elimination or significant reduction of many of these life-threatening diseases, people have forgotten or have never known how terrible these diseases can be.

Therefore, people do not see the value in vaccination.

Every time we allow a family to obtain an exemption for a vaccine, it’s not just their child who is affected. It is the whole community. This exemption puts at great risk young infants, pregnant mothers, people who take life-saving medications that weaken the immune system and people with medical conditions that prevent them from being immunized.

To protect this vulnerable population, we rely on “community immunity.”

Community immunity occurs only when the overall population’s immunity is over 95 percent. A large outbreak can only be prevented when enough people, more than 95 percent, are immune or vaccinated from a particular infection.

With Washington state personal exemptions in place, many locations on Whidbey Island are poised for an outbreak. The rates of vaccination for kindergartners at Home Connection in Oak Harbor, Coupeville Elementary School and South Whidbey Elementary School are well below the 95 percent needed for community immunity.

Hillcrest and Olympic View elementary schools are just below 95 percent.

Fortunately, the current outbreak in Clark County has not traveled to Island County. If it does, it will spread. The real risk of a measles outbreak on Whidbey Island is a math problem with a clear solution, not a conspiracy theory.

Though we prize individual freedom as a society, we also have sacrificed many of these freedoms for the good of society as a whole.

We have speed limits in school zones, leash laws for pets, legal requirements for car seat belts, prohibitions against texting while driving, and laws to prevent garbage pile-ups in housing areas to control vermin and pests.

Infectious diseases do not recognize property lines. People cannot avoid exposures and still live a normal life. Vaccines are a very low-risk way for people to protect their neighbors, their children and themselves.

John Beumer, MD, FAAP

Michele Gasper, MD, FAAP

Amy Garrett, MD, FAAP

Debby Leffler, ARNP

Jennifer Garlington, DNP, ARNP, CPNP-PC


  • Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island is a private, independent practice that is an active member of Seattle Children’s Care Network and a designated Rural Health Clinic.

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