Oregon's 2013 Rate of Vaccine-Exempted Kindergartners Increases Statewide Over 2012
May 7, 2013 - The Oregon Immunization Program today released the 2013 rates of Oregon kindergartners who have cited non-medical (religious) exemption from one or more required vaccines, showing the rate of exemptions has increased to an all-time high of 6.4 percent. National data showed that in 2012, Oregon had the highest rate non-medical exemptions from immunizations for kindergartners.
Data collected from 2013’s Exclusion Day saw increases in non-medical exemption rates in 26 county entities: Baker, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Linn, Malheur, Morrow, Multnomah, North Central (Gilliam, Sherman and Wasco counties), Tillamook, Umatilla, Wallowa, Washington, and Yamhill.
In 2013, rates also showed that 17 counties have now surpassed the common 6 percent threshold whereby herd immunity may be compromised for some vaccine-preventable diseases such as pertussis and measles. In 2012, 13 counties were above 6 percent.
“This is troubling news,” says pediatrician Jay Rosenbloom, M.D., who leads the Oregonians For Healthy Children’s efforts to create new policy in Oregon under Senate Bill 132, which is legislation seeking to curtail non-medical vaccine exemptions in Oregon’s school-age and daycare-age children. “Our work to help parents become better informed, which is a provision is in Senate Bill 132, is needed now more than ever.”
The 2013 rate increase appears to underscore the same concerns raised after the 2012 rates were announced. In the school year ending in 2012, Oregon schools had the highest rate of non-medical vaccine exemptions for students of kindergarten age. The calendar year 2012 also saw the highest rates for pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the United States, for the past 50 years, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Washington and Oregon also had higher incident rates than in previous years, and Oregon continues the climb in 2013.
Senate Bill 132, if successful, will 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 care provider, in an effort to educate parents about the risk of opting out of immunizations, and about vaccine-preventable diseases and community immunity. Under SB 132, parents will be able to claim exemption for any reason, including but not limited to religious, personal or philosophical reasons. Current law requires children enrolled in child care 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.
Washington passed similar legislation in 2011 resulting in a 25% decrease in immunization exemptions.
“The increasing non-medical exemption rate has nearly tripled in Oregon in the past twelve years,” notes Anne Stone of the Oregon Pediatric Society, which is convening the effort and gaining support to increase parental education around current exemption policies. Stone notes that recent research from the Oregon Immunization Program found that in 2012 alone, Oregon had more than 800 cases of pertussis, the state’s highest rate since the 1950s.
Added Dr. Rosenbloom, “Now, Oregon’s kindergarten non-medical exemption rates are surpassing the 6 percent benchmark, and this means we will not have the ‘community immunity’ protection that we need to protect our youngest and most vulnerable individuals against some diseases.” He adds that in private schools, the average statewide exemption rate is 11.6 percent for kindergartners. “I know that most parents comprehend the importance of immunizing their children, and that’s why it is troubling that the exemption rates for non-immunized children are still increasing.”
He believes that as state and local outreach over the past several years has increased, it has also shown that, “it will be helpful for parents to have ongoing, reliable, accurate access to medically-based information about immunizations and vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Several national and local groups, and providers have signed on to help support and further the Senate Bill 132 effort. With the Oregon Pediatric Society, they include:
Autism Science Foundation
Behind the Smile Dentistry for Children
Child and Family Health Foundation
Childhood Health Associates of Salem
Children's Health Foundation
Edward Jenner Society for Vaccines
Every Child By Two
Every Woman's Health
Healthy Kids Learn Better
Hillsboro Pediatric Clinic, LLC
Immunization Action Coalition
Lane Community College Health Clinic
Metropolitan Medical Foundation of Oregon
Moms Who Vax
National Meningitis Association Inc.
North Bend Medical Center Pediatrics
Northwest Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
One Voice for Child Care
Oregon AFSCME Council 75
Oregon Health & Science University
Oregon Health Care Association
Oregon Public Health Association
Oregon Public Health Institute
Oregon Medical Association
Oregon Nurses Association
Oregon School Employees Association
Pediatric Specialists of Pendleton
Pediatric Associates of the Northwest
Providence Health and Services
Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine
Trillium Community Health Plan - CCO
Voices for Vaccines
Additionally, more than 90 Individuals and medical professionals around Oregon support SB132 and immunization education.“We need to continue to educate parents that immunizations are a smart prevention tool; they are an effective way to keep our children, families and communities protected,” says Dr. Rosenbloom.