Skip to main content

Originally published Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 4:00 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments ((0))
  • Print

State’s new immunization law reverses troubling opt-out trend

Washington state used to be dead last among states when it came to immunizing children against deadly childhood diseases. A new state law is reversing that unhealthy trend.

Seattle Times Editorial

No comments have been posted to this article.


For the first time, Washington state’s child immunization rate is above the national average.

That is huge. The state had been dead last among states because of easy opt-out rules.

Credit a new law passed by the Legislature last year. Parents who used to only have to sign a form claiming religious, philosophical or personal reasons against vaccines, must now get a doctor’s signature to skip immunizations. In the year since lawmakers tightened up exemption rules, the vaccine opt-out rate has fallen by a quarter, according to the state Health Department.

That’s after the opt-out rate doubled over the 10 years before the 2008-09 school year — to 7.6 percent.

Tightening the rules was the right thing to do. Despite long-standing laws requiring children to be vaccinated before entering school or day care, parents skipped vaccines for their children for a number of reasons, including convenience and erroneous information and a now-discredited study linking vaccines to autism.

The work isn’t done, especially when it comes to immunization rates for older children. Teens spend a lot of time around young children, in their families and through jobs baby-sitting or tutoring.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that more parents are opting out of vaccines, particularly in states where opt-out rules are lax.

Washington has reversed a troubling record and should be viewed as a model.

Relive the magic

Relive the magic

Shop for unique souvenirs highlighting great sports moments in Seattle history.



NDN Video

The Seattle Times photographs

Seattle space needle and mountains

Purchase The Seattle Times images