States with arbitrary vaccine exemptions facing measles outbreaks

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This undated image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Feb. 4, 2015 shows an electron microscope image of a measles virus particle, center. Measles is considered one of the most infectious diseases known. The virus is spread through the air when someone infected coughs or sneezes. (AP Photo/Centers for Disease […]

The states of Washington and Oregon – where parents can opt out of vaccines for the simple reason of wanting to – are facing measles outbreaks. Kansas law further restricts exemptions, though the state faced an outbreak of its own last year.

Washington governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency after Clark County’s measles investigation found 35 confirmed cases and 11 suspected of contracting the disease. Washington and Oregon are two of 16 states where personal exemptions are legal; the others being Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Vermont.

While Kansas does not allow opting out of vaccines by personal choice, it’s one of 47 states that allow religious exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The only states with no exemptions are California, Mississippi and West Virginia. California’s exemption ban came in 2015 after a measles outbreak that sickened 147 nationwide was linked to the state’s Disneyland park.

Despite only allowing parents to opt out of vaccinations for religious reasons, Kansas faced a measles outbreak stemming from a Johnson County daycare in March 2018 with 16 confirmed cases.

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics took a stance that personal and religious exemptions should end.

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