A bill that would remove nonmedical exemptions for school children not vaccinated for communicable diseases recently passed in the House Committee on Health Care with a 7-4 vote. The bill would mean that children who hadn’t received their vaccinations will be unable to attend public or private schools.
The bill was amended to allow unvaccinated children to attend online schools, but they wouldn’t be allowed to participate in any school-related activities that put them in contact with other individuals.
This bill would not affect those who are medically exempt from vaccines. There are a number of reasons why a child would need to be medically exempt from a vaccine. These range from allergies to the vaccine’s ingredients, a compromised immune system because of another condition, such as cancer, or a history of Guillain Barré Syndrome, which is when your immune system attacks your serves. These children rely on herd immunity to keep them from becoming infected with one of these infectious diseases. Often, medically exempt children have a higher risk of facing severe complications or death if they catch one of these illnesses.
The more contagious a disease is, the more people need to be vaccinated for herd immunity to take effect. For measles, 90 to 95 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to protect the unvaccinated. Because polio is a less infectious disease, only 80 to 85 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated for herd immunity to kick in.
Oregon is one of the 17 states that lets students attend school if not vaccinated for personal, religious or philosophical reasons.
Washington had a recent measles outbreak that impacted over 70 people and a small number of Oregon’s population also were infected with measles. That outbreak served as the inspiration for this bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Cheri Helt and Rep. Mitch Greenlick.
In Oregon, 7.5 percent of kindergarteners have nonmedical vaccination exemptions. In Deschutes County, the rate from 2000 to 2001 was 0.4 percent. From 2017 to 2018, the rate rose to 11.6 percent, the fourth-highest percentage of Oregon counties.
While some lawmakers find the bill to be overreaching and a violation of medical freedom, others believe it will help to protect the health of children and prevent future outbreaks from occurring.
The bill will be sent next to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means so its financial impact can be analyzed. If approved, it would be sent to the House floor for a vote, which will likely be contentious.