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.

Cases: 154878

Reported Deaths: 2206
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31824528
Washington21099212
Marion18373285
Clackamas13328175
Lane10200126
Jackson8315111
Umatilla763982
Deschutes593459
Yamhill376764
Linn357756
Malheur334458
Polk303942
Klamath278455
Douglas244754
Josephine232849
Benton232516
Jefferson195128
Coos144019
Union128119
Columbia124821
Wasco122026
Lincoln112820
Hood River106429
Morrow104614
Clatsop7756
Crook77518
Baker6507
Curry4246
Tillamook4142
Lake3746
Harney2736
Grant2221
Wallowa1424
Gilliam531
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3559311

Reported Deaths: 51794
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles118923221241
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2860772783
Orange2607213982
San Diego2589823260
Santa Clara1102371777
Kern102627811
Fresno950151422
Sacramento929611464
Alameda802791241
Ventura77395834
San Joaquin665691082
Contra Costa62164674
Stanislaus55887946
Tulare47784746
Monterey42138327
San Mateo38872515
San Francisco34138398
Santa Barbara31763407
Solano30024164
Merced28915395
Sonoma28004298
Imperial26855589
Kings21951218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15414209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12787185
Shasta10969174
Butte10922160
El Dorado9095100
Napa899869
Sutter884597
San Benito575259
Yuba573336
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Tuolumne394659
Nevada394074
Mendocino379643
Amador344841
Humboldt318033
Lake314140
Glenn221923
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128736
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
Alpine810
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