558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Vaccine education for the community
The Crook County Health Department and the Crook County School District are active in educating parents on the most up-to-date information regarding child immunizations
January 31, 2013
Although Oregon had the highest national rate of non-medical vaccine exemptions for kindergarten students in 2012, Crook County’s public schools rate remains at a low 3 percent.
“Hopefully, it’s that education piece that is present, and the school nurses are really active in participating in the exclusion and vaccination information,” said Crook County Health Department Immunization Coordinator Mindy Stomner, regarding the Crook County School District. “I think they work really hard at educating, and making sure that their students are educated and parents are educated, and I think they are making great choices.”
At the state level, kindergarten non-medical exemption rates are approximately 6 percent, with one eastern part of Oregon that has exceeded almost 75 percent. The statewide figures have prompted a piece of legislation aimed at curtailing non-medical vaccine exemptions in Oregon’s school-age and daycare-age children. Senate Bill 132 would require parents who request a non-medical exemption from immunization requirements to either complete an online educational video or obtain a signed form from their health provider. The intent is to educate parents on the risk of opting out of immunizations, as well as vaccine-preventable diseases and community immunity.
Current law requires children enrolled in childcare and school to submit a form verifying they have received required vaccines. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children currently submit a form stating their exemption. Legislation similar to the proposed Senate Bill 132 was passed in 2011 in Washington State, and resulted in a 25 percent decrease in immunization exemptions in the state.
“It’s important to take this action now, as the rate of non-medical exemptions has doubled here in Oregon in the past decade,” said Executive Director of the Oregon Pediatric Society Anne Stone.
She added that recent research from the Oregon Immunization Program found that in 2012, Oregon had more than 800 cases of pertussis, which is the highest rate in the state since the 1950s.
Stomner noted that there can be a lot of misinformation about vaccinations on social media and other sources.
“We just do a lot of education around how do you find reliable sources, and who can you trust with that information out there? We all want to make sure that we are getting the most scientifically-based and correct information,” she said.
Under Oregon law, parents have the right to refuse selected or required vaccines for their child if they sign a statement that their child is “being reared as an adherent to a religion the teachings of which are opposed to such immunization.” In the case of immunization requirements, religion is defined as any system of beliefs, practices, or ethical values. Many parents who sign a religious exemption do not refuse all vaccines, but select individual vaccines to exempt.
In the case of disease occurrence, the local public health authority has the right to exclude inadequately vaccinated children from school and child care. Children who have been excluded need to be cared for in their homes until such time as they are readmitted to school or child care.
This exclusion is to prevent a disease outbreak and is for the protection of the community. It also protects the inadequately vaccinated child. In addition, some people cannot be vaccinated because of medical conditions, and exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases could also be fatal to them. In this case, no exceptions are made, regardless of circumstances.
Regardless of where parents stand on vaccinations, the Crook County Health Department reminds them that Wednesday, Feb. 20 is the cut-off day for children to have their missing immunizations or have an appropriate medical or religious exception.
Parents with children who had incomplete immunizations received a letter in the mail this week. The letter informed parents what shots are missing and need updating for school.
“The goal is to make sure children in our community are protected against serious diseases that can easily spread in a school environment if children aren’t fully immunized,” said Stomner.
Shots for Tots and Teens will be offered on Saturday, Feb. 2, at Crooked River Elementary School, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The immunization program is for children in Crook County, and sponsored by Rotary Club of Crook County, the Crook County Health Department, and the Immunization Coalition. No appointment is necessary, and parents should bring shot records. For additional information on Shots for Tots or for information on required vaccinations, call Crook County Health Department at 541-447-5165.
Feb. 20 is School Exclusion Day for vaccinations for all public and private preschools, schools, Head Start, and certified child care facilities.