Update March 24:
The Senate passed SB 520 unanimously, sending the measure to the House.
Outbreaks of meningococcal disease keep popping up on college campuses across the country and attract plenty of media attention. But what doesn’t get much coverage is how different schools decide to offer vaccinations to their students.
Gov. Kate Brown pledged her support Friday for legislation that would eliminate non-medical excuses for not vaccinating school children, a measure pushed by physician Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, amid a growing measles epidemic.
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, wants to eliminate all non-medical exemptions for school children to be vaccinated, and Wednesday she brought with her to the Oregon Senate Health Committee a drumbeat of support to her cause, including physician legislators from both political parties and a top state official who said his grandparents went deaf from infectious childhood diseases.
While it’s true that vaccination rates for schoolchildren in Oregon are among the lowest in the country, there is a finer point to consider: the risk of infection is not evenly distributed and is much more likely to be higher in private and charter schools.
The 2015 session will feature a new bill designed to tighten the vaccination exemptions for school children and protect the public against infectious disease after a 2013 law failed to do what lawmakers had intended.
Washington County has plans to unload its public health medical services, including vaccinations, family planning and venereal disease screening onto the safety net clinics, but a director of one of the private safety-net clinics is balking at shifting the role to his clinic.
A baby who passed through Portland International Airport last week has since been diagnosed with measles, prompting officials to stress the importance of vaccinations against the virus.
While vaccination rates in the Portland area remain relatively high – about 95 percent, according to the Multnomah County Health Department – health officials are working with the child's primary care provider to make sure patients are notified of the exposure and to take appropriate follow up.