A report published Thursday by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention announced that Oregon has the highest rate in the nation of kindergarten-age children who have not been vaccinated—approximately 7 percent.
The number of children not receiving vaccinations for non-medical reasons in Oregon is approximately three times greater than the national average, which is 1.8 percent.
Some counties in Oregon have exemption rates as high as 15 percent. Schools have seen rates as high as 70 percent. These communities are much more prone to diseases such as measles and whooping cough.
Public health officials are concerned that these rates have grown dramatically, from the state average 1 percent in 2000.
A relatively low 0.01 percent of exemptions are due to medical reasons. Most commonly cited reasons for exemption are religious, philosophical, or personal.
In March of 2014, Gov. Kitzhaber approved a law which requires all parents seeking exemption to either engage in an educational discussion with healthcare provider or read an online informational module before signing a document stating they understand the risks and benefits.
A similar law passed in the state of Washington and from 2008 to 2009, non-medical exemptions decreased by nearly 26 percent.
“We want to make sure parents and guardians receive science-based information about the benefits and risks of vaccine,” said Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator for the state Public Health Division. “There is a lot of misinformation out there on the Internet.”
Studies have shown a causal relationship between low vaccination rates and outbreaks of preventable diseases.
“I’ve seen babies die from whooping cough. I’ve seen children go deaf from measles, all because people had inaccurate beliefs about immunizations. Our children deserve better than that,” said state Sen. Elizabeth Hayward (D), a physician and primary sponsor of the bill.