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: 3927

Reported Deaths: 148
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah104058
Marion90525
Washington69017
Clackamas29010
Deschutes1190
Linn1169
Umatilla1113
Polk9610
Lane672
Yamhill657
Jackson570
Benton555
Clatsop450
Klamath410
Coos310
Malheur280
Josephine251
Jefferson250
Douglas250
Wasco181
Columbia160
Hood River120
Morrow120
Lincoln90
Tillamook60
Curry60
Union60
Crook50
Wallowa20
Sherman10
Grant10
Harney10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94020

Reported Deaths: 3754
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles450172106
San Diego6559249
Riverside6464290
Orange5336131
San Bernardino4365176
Alameda284793
Santa Clara2617139
San Francisco236740
San Mateo183376
Kern182429
Tulare164175
Santa Barbara155112
Fresno144822
Contra Costa132136
Sacramento129356
Imperial114523
Ventura91230
San Joaquin75233
Stanislaus62928
Kings5172
Sonoma4824
Solano45520
Monterey3958
Marin38814
San Luis Obispo2581
Merced2516
Santa Cruz1922
Yolo19022
Placer1849
Napa1013
Humboldt932
Madera842
El Dorado740
San Benito702
Nevada411
Sutter402
Shasta364
Butte340
Mono341
Yuba281
Del Norte230
Mendocino210
Inyo191
Mariposa151
Calaveras130
Lake120
Glenn120
Amador100
Siskiyou61
Colusa50
Plumas40
Tuolumne30
Tehama31
Alpine20
Lassen20
Trinity10
Sierra10
Unassigned00
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