Hundreds of conspiracy theorists in Washington state gathered Friday to protest against vaccinating kids.
Approximately 700 people gathered for a public hearing in Olympia to oppose a bill that would put more requirements on families attempting to back out of mandatory vaccinations for children, The Washington Post reported. The bill would specifically make it harder to opt school-age children out of getting vaccine shots for mumps, rubella and measles.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Harris, comes amid the state’s worst measles outbreak in decades. At least 49 cases have been confirmed in Clark County, leading Gov. Jay Inslee (D) to issue a state of emergency.
The cases are primarily in children ages 1 to 10, most of whom were unvaccinated.
That hasn’t stopped parents like Monique Murray from fighting against treating preventable illnesses.
“I don’t feel I’m putting my child at risk,” Murray told CBS News. “There’s nothing that’s going to change my mind on this on that specific vaccination.”
A growing number of parents incorrectly believe that the government is covering up a connection between vaccines and autism, a notion that scientists have thoroughly debunked.
The state currently allows vaccination exemptions for children at schools based on medical, religious or philosophical beliefs, The Associated Press reports. The new bill would remove parents’ ability to opt out based on philosophical beliefs.
“I want to remind you that the MMR vaccine is extremely safe and highly effective,” Washington state Health Secretary John Wiesman told lawmakers, according to the Post, adding that “all reputable scientific studies have found no relation between measles and autism.”
Anti-vaccine protester Marry Holland told the Post that if the bill passes, those who don’t believe in vaccinations will “move out of the state, or go underground, but they will not comply.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one dose of measles vaccine is 93 percent effective at preventing the illness. Health officials also say lower vaccination rates decrease so-called herd immunity, which can endanger children who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.