Your back to school routine may look a little different this year. That’s because Washington State recently passed a law removing personal/philosophical exemptions for MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. The law also requires employees and volunteers at licensed childcare centers to provide immunization records indicating they’ve received the MMR vaccine or have proof of immunity.
Why the change?
2019 has been a record-breaker, with over 1200 measles cases in 30 states – more than any other year since 1992. Washington State earned its place in the headlines, with 85 cases since January, including 12 in King County.
The vast majority of Washington State students are immunized against measles. Yet during this outbreak, 80% of the state’s cases were among unvaccinated children, offering a sobering reminder: when even a subset of the community is unimmunized, vaccine-preventable diseases can quickly gain a foothold.
Is measles really that serious?
Yes. Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases. If one person has measles, nine out of 10 people in direct contact with that person who aren’t immune (protected) will also get infected. People can be contagious before they realize they’re sick, and unwittingly spread the disease. Measles can be dangerous — serious cases can lead to brain damage and even death.
In contrast, MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. One dose is about 93% effective at preventing measles, and two doses are 97% effective.
What does the new law mean for me?
If you’re a parent…
If your child currently has a personal/philosophical exemption, they’ll need to get up to date on MMR requirements in order to attend childcare, preschool, or school. Depending on age, your child may need one or two doses of the MMR vaccine, spaced at least 28 days apart. Present immunization records to your childcare, preschool, or school on or before the first day of attendance.
If you work or volunteer in a licensed childcare center…
You’ll need to provide proof of your own measles immunity. That includes either: a medically verified record of at least one dose of MMR vaccine, proof of immunity to measles from a lab test, or a letter of attestation from a health care provider stating that you’ve had a previous measles infection. If your health care provider determines that MMR vaccination is not medically advisable for you, they may issue a medical exemption. Childcare staff and volunteers cannot submit personal/philosophical and religious exemptions for MMR.
If you’re responsible for collecting student immunization records in a licensed childcare center, preschool, or school…
Make sure you’ve notified all parents whose children have personal/philosophical exemptions for MMR vaccine. Also contact all parents whose children are out-of-compliance for any vaccination required for school. Let them know they’re required to provide vaccination documentation by the first day of attendance. Per state law, any student not in compliance with immunization requirements should be excluded from childcare or school after 30 days of attendance, until they can show satisfactory progress towards meeting immunization requirements. Find a sample parent/guardian notification letter here.
If you’re responsible for collecting staff immunization records in a licensed childcare center…
Make sure all staff and volunteers have submitted proof of immunity. Per state law, any staff or volunteer not in compliance with immunization requirements is not allowed to work or volunteer at a licensed child care center. Find a sample staff notification letter here.
Who is not affected by the new law?
The new law does not change immunization requirements for teachers in K-12 schools, or students and faculty in post-high school education programs. However, Public Health encourages everyone to be immunized against contagious diseases and up-to-date with recommended vaccines. For more information about adult vaccine recommendations, see page 27 of the Immunization Manual for Schools, Preschools, and Child Care Facilities (PDF), or use this assessment tool to find out what vaccines you need.
How can I access my family’s immunization records?
Sign up for an account with MyIR to view, download, and print your family’s immunization information. You can also visit your local pharmacy, clinic, or school, or request a complete immunization record from your healthcare provider or from the Washington Department of Health. Learn more here.
Where can I get immunized?
The best option is to contact your family doctor, nurse, or clinic for an appointment. Children under age 19 can access free vaccines through the Washington State Childhood Vaccine Program.
If you don’t already have a health care provider, no problem. Several free, walk-in options are available:
- HealthPoint clinics throughout King County are offering free, walk-in MMR vaccinations for all children and adults, while supplies last. Children up to age 18 can also receive all vaccines required for school.
- Some Public Health Centers are providing free, walk-in MMR vaccinations. This includes: Downtown Seattle, Eastgate/Bellevue, and Navos/Burien (vaccines available only for adults age 19 and over at Navos).
- Uninsured staff and volunteers of licensed childcare centers can get free MMR vaccinations at select Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies across the state.
Click here for more information on where to get immunized or how to find a healthcare provider.
For more information on the new law, visit: www.doh.wa.gov/mmrexemption