A growing number of parents in Oregon aren’t vaccinating their children against deadly diseases because they believe vaccines can have irreversible adverse health effects. Oregon leads the national exemption list, with 5.8 percent of kindergartners (or more than 2,600 children) being exempt from vaccines last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in April that eight young children who were taken into state custody last year could be vaccinated. Their parents have claimed that religious beliefs exempt the children from vaccination. The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) has argued and carried the point that because the state has custody of the children, the state can also make medical decisions for the children.
DHS had checked with a doctor to make sure the children didn’t have allergies or other medical conditions. The doctor recommended immunizations, and DHS turned to a judge for permission when the parents refused. The Oregon appeals court noted that North Carolina and Georgia courts have also denied parents without custody of their kids a say in immunizations. Conversely, Arizona ruled in favor of a mother who didn’t want her child vaccinated.
Oregon continues to represent ground zero in the childhood vaccine debate with the state Senate voting in May on a bill that would require parents to be educated about vaccines before they can exempt their children from them. The number of unvaccinated kindergarteners increased to 6.4% this year and officials fear a public safety disaster similar to the recent measles outbreak in Wales.
The bill stipulates that parents enrolling unvaccinated children in school would have to prove they consulted a physician for information, or show a certificate verifying they watched an online educational video about the risks and benefits of immunization. In 2011, Washington passed similar legislation. Although Oregon has debated both sides of this bill, it was passed by the Oregon Senate on Thursday, June 6th and is now in the Oregon House.
“The more people you have that are unvaccinated, the more likely you are to have those diseases spread,” Dr. Jay Rosenbloom, a spokesman for Oregonians for Healthy Children stated. “The percentage of Oregon parents signing personal-beliefs vaccine exemptions has been rising steadily since 2001, but declining a vaccination doesn’t just affect the individual.”
The vaccine debate will continue, both with parents of young children and in other areas. Vaccine Watch urges those concerned about vaccines to speak with a doctor about the risks and benefits before making a decision.