Monthly Archives: February 2019

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    Van De Wege urges vaccinations to protect against measles outbreak

Van De Wege urges vaccinations to protect against measles outbreak

February 14th, 2019|


Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) is strongly urging parents to make sure their children have been vaccinated in the face of a growing outbreak of measles in Southwest Washington.

“Just because the outbreak is primarily in Clark County doesn’t mean it isn’t a concern for other areas of the state,” Van De Wege said. “Measles is a highly contagious disease, and immunization rates have been dropping. We’re more at risk to this disease than we have been for generations.”

Jefferson County, one of three counties in the 24th Legislative District that Van De Wege represents, has the fourth highest rate of unvaccinated children in the state with only 67.3 percent of kindergartners vaccinated. The district’s other counties, Clallam and Grays Harbor, have vaccination rates of 86 and 81.6 percent respectively.

“Vaccinations don’t just protect the kids who are vaccinated, they protect others in the community who are at risk,” Van De Wege said. “People who cannot receive vaccinations, such as newborns or individuals with chronic illnesses, are very vulnerable.”

Measles can cause hearing loss, pneumonia, encephalitis and death, and can increase the potential for pregnant women to give birth prematurely or to a baby with low birth weight. The disease is also easily spread: One person with measles in an un-immunized population can infect 12 to 18 others.

Kindergartners are required to be immunized against polio, measles, chicken pox, pneumococcal disease and other illnesses, but state law allows for three exemptions. Senate Bill 5841, of which Van De Wege is a cosponsor, would retain the exemptions for religious and medical reasons but eliminate the most problematic: personal belief.

In Washington, for the 2017-18 school year, the percentage of kindergartners exempted for personal reasons was 3.7 percent, compared to only 0.2 percent for religion and 0.8 percent for medical necessity. Removing the personal belief exemption could have reduced the overall number of unvaccinated children by more than 75 percent, from 4.7 percent to 1 percent. In Jefferson County, the county with the second highest rate of personal belief exemptions in the state, the reduction could be even more dramatic.

“Because vaccinations have been so effective, the measles virus was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000,” Van De Wege said. “Now we’re seeing a resurgence, with statistics showing 90 percent of patients were not vaccinated or were of unknown vaccination status. This suggests the outbreaks are coming from the unvaccinated, and we need to take the necessary steps to safeguard public health.”

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    Van De Wege works to ensure accurate purchases, fracking protections

Van De Wege works to ensure accurate purchases, fracking protections

February 1st, 2019|

OWashington consumers would continue to be protected from being overcharged for everyday products under legislation awaiting a hearing before the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee chaired by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim).

Senate Bill 5468 would update the fees the state charges for devices used to measure or weigh the vast range of products sold in Washington state, from household items like meat and produce to commercial items like gasoline and freight.

“The biggest thing this does is make sure a gallon of gas is a gallon of gas,” said Van De Wege, the bill’s sponsor. “No one should receive less than what they pay for, whether intentionally or unintentionally.”

Scales and other commercial measuring devices used across the state are regularly inspected by state and local government employees to ensure the weights and other measurements they provide are accurate. This service is funded through a system of fees paid by the businesses that rely on the devices. Van De Wege’s bill would maintain the effectiveness and integrity of this regulatory standard by updating those fees to reflect the modern cost of inspections.

“Day in and day out, we buy everything from salmon to gasoline with the assurance that we aren’t being overcharged or shortchanged,” Van De Wege said. “This legislation simply enables the state to continue to provide the inspections necessary to ensure the accuracy of these millions of transactions.”

Another bill in Van De Wege’s committee, SB 5145, would prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing — more commonly known as fracking — in the exploration or production of oil or natural gas in Washington state.

“We know that fracking produces tremendous amounts of polluted water and poses serious threats to human health,” said Van De Wege, a cosponsor of the bill. “Given the threats to human and environmental health, as well as the absence of evidence that there is even any frackable oil in our state, it makes no sense to allow fracking anywhere in our state.”

He noted that a Princeton study, the largest ever conducted on health effects from fracking, found that pregnant women who live very close to a fracking well are more likely to give birth to a less healthy child with a low birth weight, which can result in poorer health throughout a person’s life.

“We have the great fortune to live in a region known for an abundance of impressive natural resources and environmental beauty,” Van De Wage said. “We should guard against any practices that would threaten these treasures, especially when we have better clean energy options available to us.”

SB 5145 was heard Tuesday and passed out of committee Thursday.