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Oregon vaccine bill dead as US measles count soars

Critics blasted a decision by Oregon lawmakers that killed a bill aimed at getting more children vaccinated for measles and other preventable diseases in order pass a tax on large businesses, saying it jeopardized public health.

Posted: May 14, 2019 4:35 PM
Updated: May 14, 2019 4:40 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Critics blasted a decision by Oregon lawmakers that killed a bill aimed at getting more children vaccinated for measles and other preventable diseases in order pass a tax on large businesses, saying it jeopardized public health.

Despite passing the House and having the necessary votes in the Senate, the measure to make it harder for families to opt out of required vaccinations was nixed as part of a deal announced Monday to end a week-long Republican walkout over a multibillion school funding tax.

Under the vaccination measure children would only have been be able to forgo vaccine requirements with a doctor's note, otherwise they'd be unable to attend public school.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a Democrat from Beaverton, Oregon, and the bill's sponsor, said the move prevents the state from protecting its citizens from a public health crisis.

"This isn't how I want our state to be known," she said. "This is a major public health issue and it's critical we address it."

More than 70 people, including four from Oregon, were diagnosed as part of a months-long outbreak in the Pacific Northwest that public health officials just recently declared over.

"As the recent measles outbreak demonstrated, vaccine-preventable illnesses pose a growing threat due to the relatively low rate of immunizations in the Northwest," said Robb Cowie, a spokesman with the Oregon Health Authority, the state's health care agency.

Oregon has the highest rate of unvaccinated kindergartners in the country, with at least 7.5% of toddlers claiming an exemption. In some schools, more than 40% of children are unvaccinated through the state's lax exemption process. That makes Oregon uniquely susceptible to an outbreak, according to Diane Peterson associate director for Immunization Action Coalition, which receives funding from the CDC.

"Oregon in particular is a hotbed for a measles outbreak," Peterson said. "All you need is to introduce one person with the disease into the community and it will spread like wildfire."

Oregon was one of a number of states proposing to crack down on non-medical exemptions, in response to a national resurgence of measles that has now sickened over 800 people this year according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The state is one of 17 to allow families to opt out of required school vaccinations for personal, philosophical or religious reasons.

Neighboring Washington state this year passed a law to end all non-medical exemptions for the measles vaccine, while Maine is working to remove its religious and personal exemptions for all vaccines. Some states, including Rhode Island, introduced measures to add exemptions.

The anti-vaccination movement surged in the 1990s, after a study alleged a link between the measles vaccine and the rise of autism. The study has since been discredited.

Mississippi, California and West Virginia are the only states that banned all non-medical exemptions. Mississippi has the highest childhood vaccination rate in the country, while the California law, passed in 2015, caused a significant boost in vaccination numbers.

Republican and Democratic leaders are remaining tight-lipped on why the vaccine issue in particular was targeted as part of the walkout deal.

Steiner Hayward said she wasn't involved in the negotiations and that she personally received a call from Gov. Kate Brown to tell her the vaccine bill would not move forward this session.

Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, from Portland, stressed that the tradeoff was worth it to coax Republicans back to the Capitol and vote on a $1 billion annual boost in school funding. It wasn't, she said, a response to the vitriolic opposition the proposal has received from hundreds of parents opposed to vaccinating their children.

"The people opposing that bill just behaved reprehensibly around the building," said Burdick at a news conference Monday. "And one of the things that distresses me is I'm afraid that some of them are going to feel that those tactics worked. Those tactics had nothing to do with what happened."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32581

Reported Deaths: 542
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7113137
Marion465894
Washington449760
Umatilla296241
Clackamas239861
Malheur161723
Lane118517
Jackson11395
Deschutes82512
Yamhill75713
Jefferson5298
Polk52915
Linn51913
Morrow4986
Lincoln48113
Union4462
Benton3106
Wasco2893
Klamath2802
Hood River2510
Douglas2274
Clatsop2040
Josephine1982
Columbia1651
Coos1560
Baker942
Crook621
Tillamook520
Lake320
Curry310
Wallowa301
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant90
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 807451

Reported Deaths: 15583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2669886504
Riverside581781189
San Bernardino54386925
Orange530691214
San Diego46331775
Kern31865367
Fresno28199382
Sacramento22183406
Alameda21136406
Santa Clara21030311
San Joaquin20194441
Contra Costa16469205
Stanislaus16452351
Tulare15970263
Ventura12664150
Imperial11835317
San Francisco11076101
San Mateo9843150
Monterey980771
Santa Barbara9037113
Merced8872142
Kings763177
Sonoma7369122
Marin6694117
Solano630963
Madera448165
Placer356745
San Luis Obispo354429
Butte281944
Yolo279555
Santa Cruz23309
Sutter170511
Napa166913
San Benito134011
Yuba11537
El Dorado11094
Mendocino90818
Shasta80617
Lassen7400
Glenn5783
Tehama5465
Lake53911
Nevada5337
Colusa5296
Humboldt5017
Calaveras31714
Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18715
Mono1652
Siskiyou1650
Del Norte1391
Mariposa752
Plumas500
Modoc270
Trinity160
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
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