Oregon has the highest percentage of children entering school with non-medical waivers for at least one, and sometimes more, vaccination. State officials are hoping to change that statistic.
State legislature has introduced a new law, taking effect today, stating parents must consult with a medical professional before they qualify for a waiver to opt out of any vaccine before their child may start school. Similar laws have already been put into effect in California and Washington.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.4 percent of kids starting kindergarten in the 2012-2013 school year in Oregon had a religious or philosophical waiver for vaccines. This means 3,010 additional unvaccinated kids entered the school system, along with any who could not be vaccinated for medical reasons.
While there are a variety of reasons parents may opt to not have their children vaccinated without medical reason (e.g. religious beliefs), a worrying one is the belief that vaccinations can cause autism. A study was published in 1998 that connected the MMR vaccine to the development of autism. The study was retracted in 2004, and the author of the study was stripped of his medical license for falsifying data.
Since then, doctors and scientists have not been able to find any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. However, an extremely vocal group of parents and celebrities like Jenny McCarthy still firmly state the MMR vaccine causes autism. This can influence parents when making the decision to vaccinate.
Kids who aren’t vaccinated when they start school are at risk for some of the most contagious and dangerous diseases. Measles is particularly contagious; the CDC states an unvaccinated person can get measles simply by entering a room a person with measles was in, even hours later.
A discussion of the benefits and risks of vaccines is what Oregon is asking of parents before they make a decision about vaccinations.
In accordance with the new law, any parent seeking a vaccination waiver can choose to receive science-based information about the benefits and possible side effects of vaccines from their family physician or watch a one-hour video on the same topic.
It is hoped that this new law will help bring down the number of unvaccinated children entering Oregon’s school system.