SALEM, Ore. — A bill aimed at ending vaccine exemptions for school students in Oregon has passed the House of Representatives, Representative Cheri Helt's office (R-Bend) confirmed on Monday.
If passed in the state Senate, the bill would end the practice of allowing non-medical exemptions for K-12 students attending schools in the state. At present, exemptions are allowed for philosophical or religious reasons as long as the parent or guardian watches an online educational video or speaks to a healthcare provider in order to obtain certification that they have been advised on the risks.
"Some people cannot be vaccinated because of medical conditions — and exposure to a vaccine-preventable disease could be fatal to them. If your child has been exposed to a disease, intentionally or not, keep them home at the first sign of illness," reads a disclaimer from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). "Actively choosing not to immunize your child is a parent’s right; however, it carries with it a significant responsibility: not exposing others to communicable disease."
Like a similar bill in Washington state, the Oregon measure arose following a recent measles outbreak that straddled the two states for a period of months. The vast majority of cases were in Clark County, Washington.
“House Bill 3063 is about saving lives, protecting children and communities, believing in sound science, and building immunity from dangerous diseases," said Rep. Helt. "I am encouraged that it has passed through the House and hope my colleagues in the Senate agree that this legislation is vital to protect those among us who cannot be vaccinated due to legitimate medical reasons.”
Helt went on to say that the bill would "provide Oregonians with freedom from fear, freedom from sickness, freedom from quarantines and freedom from diseases that can kill.”
The bill passed with some bipartisan support and opposition in a 35-25 vote. While most Democrats voted in favor of the bill, a handful voted against. Representative Kim Wallan (R-Medford) joined Helt in supporting it, but they were the only Republicans to do so.
Governor Brown has said that she would sign the bill into law if it comes to her desk. Brown recently signed a bill into law that would allow dentists to provide vaccinations.
Vaccines currently required for K-12 students in Oregon are DTaP/Tdap (Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis), Polio, Varicella (Chickenpox), MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. The number of doses required depends on which year of school the child is in.