OHA analysis shows steady climb since early 2000s, big rise in past year
PORTLAND, Ore.— A new state analysis shows Oregon has seen a sharp increase in the rate of parents choosing nonmedical exemptions to vaccines for their kindergarten-age children.
In 2015, the first year after a new law went into effect requiring parents and guardians to take certain steps to claim a nonmedical exemption, Oregon’s kindergarten nonmedical exemption rate fell from 7 percent to 5.8 percent, according to Oregon Health Authority data. However, since that initial decrease, the rates have increased each year, to 6.2 percent in 2016, 6.5 percent in 2017 and 7.5 percent in 2018.
Nonmedical 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 nonmedical 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, based at the OHA Public Health Division. “Most parents and guardians know that immunization is still the best way to protect 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.”
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