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Oregon, Washington Lawmakers Balk At Tougher Vaccination Mandate

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Oregon and Washington lawmakers flinched within hours of each other Wednesday when it came to toughening mandatory vaccination requirements for schoolchildren.

A nationwide measles outbreak spurred legislative interest this winter in tightening the exemptions families can use to skip immunizations required to attend school. But in the face of stiff opposition, Democratic Oregon Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward shelved her bill to eliminate the religious and philosophical opt-outs.

That would have left only the rarely-used medical exemption.

"She is disappointed that the conversations have largely revolved around who is right or wrong about science and the benefits vs risk of vaccines, rather than about the health and well-being of Oregon’s children, " read a statement emailed by Steiner Hayward's office on Wednesday.

A narrower measure in the Washington Legislature would have disallowed philosophical or personal objections. But the Washington version failed to garner enough support to pass the state House of Representatives before a Wednesday afternoon deadline for House bills to advance off the floor.

The legislative flame outs followed emotional testimony in Olympia and Salem from parents and medical professionals. Some parents resisted the state dictating medical decisions for their children. Doctors warned that entirely preventable diseases could make a comeback if too many parents skip school shots for their kids.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.