Pass SB 442
Pass SB 442
Oregon has the worst immunization rates in the country and has the most lenient rules on vaccine exemptions. Since 2000, the percentage of Oregon children entering kindergarten whose parents have chosen to exempt them from vaccines has grown from less than one percent to greater than seven percent. Why is that unacceptable? Because, as many of you know, vaccines only work when a certain percentage of the community is vaccinated. Together, this community of vaccinated individuals protects those for whom the vaccine wasn’t effective (yes, that happens) and those who are unable to be vaccinated (infants, cancer patients, kids who are too ill to get the vaccine). Each disease has a different “herd immunity” threshold – this threshold indicates the percentage of the community that must be vaccinated in order for the vaccine to work most effectively. For measles, that threshold is 94 percent. We are precariously close to falling below herd immunity for vaccine-preventable diseases, making those vaccines less effective for the community as a whole.
For those of us who did our part and vaccinated our kids, it’s still fully possible that they could die from a vaccine-preventable disease because other parents are deciding not to vaccinate. That’s unacceptable and needs to change. If immunization rates in Oregon continue to fall as they have been falling for the last 15 years, we’re headed for disaster. So let’s do something about it.
The Oregon Senate Committee on Health Care is currently reviewing Senate Bill 442 that would eliminate the current option for parents to opt their school-going children out of state-required vaccines due to religious or philosophical reasons. As it is, Oregon parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children have to obtain a Vaccine Education Certificate so they can opt-out. Parents can either visit their doctor to obtain the certificate, or they can simply watch a video online and print out the certificate at the end of the video. Clearly, that’s not enough because Oregon still ranks as the worst in the nation for immunization rates. And that’s just the state average. The scariest part is that there are schools in Oregon that have greater than a 70 percent non-medical exemption rate. Mississippi, on the other hand, does not allow non-medical vaccine exemptions and in 2014, only a scant 0.1 percent of Mississippi kindergartners were exempt from vaccinations.
We need this bill to pass so Oregon’s vaccine rates don’t continue to fall.