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September 21, 2012 at 7:30 AM

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Washington state's immunization opt-out rules a national model

Fewer Washington state residents are opting out of mandatory immunizations. Good! The trend for many states is in the reverse direction, with public health officials grappling with the sizeable number of parents opting their kids out of vaccines. That decision leaves not just the child unprotected against childhood diseases but can endanger other people.

Washington ought to become a national model. We've come a long way. The number of kindergarteners whose parents opted them out of immunization requirements had more than doubled in the decade that ended in 2008.

Vaccines have virtually eliminated deaths from infectious diseases such as polio and measles. To grasp the preventative power of vaccines, look at unvaccinated children in developing countries crippled or killed by diseases all but wiped out in the U.S. But a challenge to the success of vaccines is lingering distrust of the medical community and unfounded fears of a link between vacccines and autism spectrum disorder.

The state Legislature and last year state lawmakers passed a law requiring parents who want to opt out of vaccine schedules to get a doctor's signature. That extra level of scrutiny was applauded in this Times editorial. And now our vaccine rates are going up, up, up. That's good news.

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