Robert F. Kennedy Jr. testifies in Olympia against measles vaccine bill
OLYMPIA, Wash. —
With 51 confirmed measles cases in Clark County and 13 suspect cases there is a growing call to get rid of a key exemption from getting vaccinated. But a high profile figure warned state lawmakers that the vaccine is dangerous. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. traveled to Olympia to fight against a bill that would force more parents to have their kids vaccinated.
"I have a lot of sympathy for those of you sitting up there and trying to parse through the noise and try to nail down the set of facts that we can all agree on," testified Kennedy on Friday at a state House public hearing.
The voice of the son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy is strained from neurological damage to his voice box, but he said his message about the measles vaccine is clear. "Do we want to be a country that forces its children or parents to engage in risky medical interventions without informed consent?"
Right now only about nine of 10 students are immunized in Washington with many parents using the exemption of personal or philosophical objection. There is a to do away with that exemption.
"This bill is really important to my community in Vancouver," said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver. "It's not my bill. It's really a support of the community that has been overwhelmed with measles in this area."
There still would be exemptions for health or religious reasons, but not the simple "personal" reason.
With Kennedy was pediatric emergency room physician Dr. Toni Bark of Illinois who testified, "And while there has only been two deaths from measles in this country since 2003, there has been at least 400 and some odd children who've died from the vaccine."
"That is not correct," said Dr. Kathy Lofy, Washington Health officer. "I'm not aware of any people dying from MMR vaccine every year, in any given year."
Dr. Rupin Thakker of Seattle's Swedish Hospital said, "We have these reports that have been made, but we don't have reports that have been substantiated to show causality is actually there. So we believe the vaccine is incredibly safe."
And that's the challenge. You have people of science disagreeing on facts and people with passion disagreeing with what's right. "Will mandating this vaccine cause more harm than good?" asked Kennedy.
The next step for the bill is vote by the Health and Wellness Committee before it can move on to the full House for a vote.