Religious Exemption on Chopping Block?

By Kaila Calhoun, Staff Writer

In 2012, over 900 Oregonians came down with whooping cough. The highest in half a century. Late in 2014, about 30 children in Jackson county had chicken pox. This year, a Lane county man was diagnosed with measles, the 12th measles case in Oregon in just the past two years.

Oregon does not require immunizations for school children. Parents can file an exemption from vaccination due to religious or philosophical reasons for their children.

The state of Oregon now leads the country for kindergarteners lacking at least one immunization for non-medical reasons. There is proposal for this to change.

Oregon Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward has submitted a proposal to end exemptions for non-medical reasons. If a parent chose not to abide by the state immunization schedule, they would be barred from sending their child to public or private school, or day care.

Last Wednesday, February 18, was School Exclusion Day for Oregon schools.

This meaning that any students who were not up to date with immunizations would not be allowed to attend school beginning on the 18th.

For many parents who are working or in school, having their children excluded from school can be a real problem. One southern Oregon parent expressed he had to take an afternoon off from work in order to vaccinate his son.

The Associated Press contacted many anti-vaccine parents to hear them discuss the reasons they have for not vaccinating their children. Only a few mothers were willing to speak out. Many others were fearful of the backlash they may receive from parents who do choose to vaccinate their kids. One mother claimed that she thinks that vaccination is a medical choice and it should be researched carefully prior to immunization.

Bobby Brewer is a local business manager and parent in Jackson county. He claims, “We do the school required vaccines for our daughter, but we do not do the flu shot.” He believes that it should be a personal choice for parents to vaccinate their children or not. For him, the new proposal put forth by Sen. Steiner Hayward would not change much for his family, but it would certainly impact the right of each parent to choose.

Currently, out of the 32,989 kids that attend schools and childcare facilities in Jackson county, 2,126 claim non-medical exemptions and 196 claim medical exemptions. As of March 2014, parents who would like to claim non-medical exemptions must first meet with a healthcare provider or watch an education film on immunizations.

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