ASHLAND, Ore. — State lawmakers are preparing to enter the ring in the heated bout over vaccinations. Next week, the Oregon Senate votes on a bill that would create educational requirements for parents who want to opt out of shots for their children.
The Oregon Pediatric Society says Oregon has the highest rate of immunization exceptions for kindergarten kids in the country and experts say the rate of exceptions is growing in both Jackson and Josephine counties. This new bill would require a parent who wants to enroll their child in school without shots get briefed on the risks and benefits first.
Experts say, among physicians, there’s little debate over the topic: when parents choose not to immunize their children, it puts other kids at risk. Opponents say the material being taught, which comes from the Centers for Disease Control, is just one of many viewpoints on the topic.
Dr. Jim Shames, Health Officer for Jackson and Josephine Counties, says there’s disagreement between experts and parents because many of the diseases being treated haven’t been seen in years.
“These are diseases that we’ve largely eradicated due to very successful immunization programs,” said Dr. Shames. “So, when you talk to someone about smallpox, or diphtheria, or tetanus, people don’t see those diseases,”
Roughly 13 percent of people in Josephine County are exempted from shots for non-medical reasons. Experts say that number is as high as 25 percent among school kids in Ashland.
Supporters of the bill say it won’t take away a parent’s right to choose not to immunize their children, but it will require they receive briefing before making that decision.