Oregon kindergarten vaccine exemption rate increases sharply
OHA analysis shows steady climb since early 2000s – big rise in past year
PORTLAND, OR — A new state analysis shows Oregon has seen a sharp increase in the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their kindergarten-age children – rising from 6.2 percent in 2016 to 6.5 percent in 2017 and up to 7.5 percent in 2018.
Personal or opinion-based exemption rates in Oregon counties in 2018 for students in grades K-12 ranged from 1 percent in Morrow County to 10 percent in Josephine County. Individual school and child care rates for sites with 10 or more students are available on OHA’s School Immunization Coverage webpage at http://www.healthoregon.org/immdatamap.
“While more personal or opinion exemptions mean fewer children are being immunized, the vast majority of Oregon parents and guardians still choose to fully immunize their children,” said Stacy de Assis Matthews, immunization school law coordinator with the Oregon Immunization Program. “Most parents and guardians know that immunization is still the best way to protect their children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles.”
Oregon’s immunization law helps ensure that children can go to school in a safe and healthy environment free of vaccine-preventable diseases. The law protects nearly 700,000 students in 3,500 public and private schools, preschools, Head Starts and certified child care programs. School immunization mandates are an evidence-based best practice for increasing immunization rates and decreasing vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.
State law requires that children be immunized against diseases including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis. The number of required vaccinations can vary depending on the child’s age or grade level and type of facility. Exemptions are also available. The full schedule is available on OHA’s Required Immunizations webpage at http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PREVENTIONWELLNESS/VACCINESIMMUNIZATION/GETTINGIMMUNIZED/Pages/SchRequiredImm.aspx.
Matthews believes that health care providers play an important role in educating parents about immunizations.
“If you have questions about vaccines from something you saw on the internet, talk to your child’s health care provider,” Matthews said. Providers also need to be reassured it’s OK to talk to parents about vaccines and encourage their use.
“We all want healthy children and healthy communities, and one important way we get there is with immunizations,” Matthews said. “Providers play a crucial role in this effort.”
Here’s a piece of a Scientific American magazine that got straight to the point of weighing whether to vaccinate children or not:
Together we have conducted a series of studies to better quantify the risks of not vaccinating—information that speaks to the mistaken belief that today’s children are unlikely to come down with whooping cough, measles or the like if they skip their inoculations. Our investigations looked at hundreds of thousands of children in Colorado and compared the risk of various vaccine-preventable diseases in children whose parents had refused or delayed vaccines with the risk in children whose parents had had them vaccinated. We found that unvaccinated children were roughly 23 times more likely to develop whooping cough, nine times more likely to be infected with chicken pox, and 6.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with pneumonia or pneumococcal disease than vaccinated children from the same communities.
Clearly, the parental decision to withhold vaccination places youngsters at greatly increased risk for potentially serious infectious diseases. These results also show the flaws in the “free rider” argument, which erroneously suggests that an unvaccinated child can avoid any real or perceived risks of inoculation because enough other children will have been vaccinated to protect the untreated child.
Depending on fate to soften the blow from an infection is also more dangerous than most people realize. One out of every 20 previously healthy children who get the measles will come down with pneumonia. One out of 1,000 will suffer an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions and mental retardation, and one to two out of 1,000 will die. Similarly, chicken pox can lead to severe infections of the skin, swelling of the brain, and pneumonia. Even when no complications arise, chicken pox is painful and triggers high fevers and itchy rashes. Vaccinated children who develop chicken pox (no vaccine is perfectly effective all the time) usually suffer much milder symptoms.
Even when parents appreciate the peril of not vaccinating, they want to know that vaccines are safe. Because vaccines are given to huge numbers of people, including healthy infants, they are held to a much higher safety standard than medications used for people who are already sick. Nothing in medicine is 100 percent safe, however, and the absolute safety of vaccines cannot be proved. Safety can be inferred, though, by the relative absence of serious side effects in multiple studies.