Hundreds of students who attend Seattle’s public schools were kept out of classrooms on Jan. 8 after they failed to comply with an updated vaccination law in Washington state.
Speaking to The Seattle Times, district superintendent Denise Juneau said as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the first day of school after winter break, an estimated 565 students in the district did not have the required immunization records or necessary documents that proved their exemption. That number dropped to 476 by the late afternoon.
Students who showed up without the proper document were required to stay in a room with staff members until their parents or guardians could come and pick them up, reported Seattle Times.
Per state law, student records must reflect updated immunization status by Jan. 8 or students cannot attend school. SPS staff have supported thousands of families in updating their records and will provide free immunization clinics. Read more: https://t.co/whMU1S0jcA #SPSConnects pic.twitter.com/VL40hfOyU6
— Seattle Public Schools (@SeaPubSchools) January 2, 2020
A notice posted by Seattle Public Schools on its website stated that students have until Jan. 8 to get updated immunization records or they’ll be excluded from attending school, citing Washington state law and the state’s recently-passed bill that eliminates the “personal” and “philosophical” options to exempt children from the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.
The notice also warned the parents that any missed days because of outdated immunizations records would be counted as unexcused absences.
Washington House Bill 1638 (pdf), which took effect in July 2019, removed personal and philosophical exemptions to MMR vaccines for every child at every public and private school, as well as every daycare center in the state. Despite the law change, parents can still, at least for now, exempt their children from receiving MMR vaccines for medical and religious reasons.
The bill came about as Washington’s Clark County experienced a measles outbreak in early 2019, which led to the state’s health officials declaring a public health emergency. Washington Department of Health reported that 71 of out of all 87 measles cases were in Clark County, which is known for having a low child vaccination percentage compared with other counties.
The year 2019 saw three states, including Washington, amending their vaccination laws in the hope to reduce the risk of another major outbreak. Maine House Bill 586 removes both personal and religious belief exemptions for public school immunization requirements. New York Senate Bill 2994, which was signed into law despite opposition from multiple religious communities, removes the religious exemptions to the MMR and other vaccines for students attending school.