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The question of whether to vaccinate our children has never been more controversial, nor has the amount of information available been more varied.
The advent of social media and the Internet has created a plethora of opinions and information, which is often laced with misinformation and myths. Sorting through scientific facts and fallacies can be a daunting task for parents.
Amidst this explosion of information overload, recent data gathered from Oregonís 2013 Exemption Day points to an alarming increase in non-medical vaccination exemption rates among kindergartners. The rates show an all-time high of 6.4 percent, on an Oregon state-wide basis. There was also an increase from 2012 to 2013 among 26 Oregon counties. In Crook County, the rate of non-medical exemptions went from 5 to 7 percent. In some counties, the percentage has reached as high as 15 percent.
In an effort to create legislation that would curtail the non-medical vaccine exemptions in Oregon, Senate Bill 132 was introduced. It would require parents who request a non-medical exemption from immunization for their child to complete an online educational video or obtain a signed form from their health care provider indicating they have watched the video. The intent is to educate parents about the risk of opting out of immunizations, and about vaccine-preventable diseases and community immunity.
While we commend our legislators for making the effort to help parents become better informed, we think it is more reactive in nature, and will do little to address the issue. Forcing a parent to watch a video when they have already made up their mind about vaccinating their children will just require them to go through the motions, when they need to be educated on the preventive side of the issue.
We agree that education is a big piece of the immunization issue, but believe that there needs to be more effort put into good, scientific-based education up front, before parents are at the point of choosing to opt out of immunizing their children.
After all, one of the reasons that these new percentages from Oregonís 2013 Exemption Day are so alarming is because 6 percent is the benchmark to maintain ďcommunity immunity,Ē to prevent compromise for some vaccine-preventable diseases such as pertussis and measles. When a high number of people in a community are immunized, it provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity.
We are already seeing some of the highest rates of pertussis in Oregon in 50 years, and we donít think anyone wants to see those old childhood diseases make a comeback. Therefore, we would hope that our Oregon representatives in the Senate and the House would also see the weakness in SB 132, and would look for ways to be proactive in preventative education, rather than reactive after parents have made up their mind to opt out of getting their children immunized.