Facing the facts

Vaccine education bill violates no one's rights, may increase immunization rates

The Oregon Legislature has decided parents need to face the facts before they're able to send their unvaccinated children to school.

That's a smart, targeted move to make the world safer for all of us.

And it doesn't violate the rights or freedom of anybody, as some opponents are claiming.

Under Senate Bill 132's provisions, parents can still refuse immunizations for their children who attend public schools, but they have to get a little piece of education first, either from an online program or a visit to a doctor. The bill has been approved by both the House and Senate, and now goes to the governor, who is expected to sign it into law.

Some children have legitimate medical reasons that prevent immunization, and some families have firm religious objections. Unfortunately, Oregon's current law is so loose that anyone can claim an exemption, even if they don't have a meaningful or well-informed reason.

Compounding the problem is the unfortunate widespread belief that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent. Many well-intentioned parents have fallen victim to an extensive, unscientific and misleading campaign against immunizations. As a representative of the Oregon Nursing Association said in legislative testimony, "In this day, when so much information is available online, it can be difficult for parents to determine which information is medically accurate and which is inaccurate."

The result has been a falling rate of immunization in our schools, with Oregon now leading the nation in the number of kindergartners who haven't had their shots. That puts the rest of us at risk as rates in some schools are so low that herd immunity is compromised. Recent whooping cough outbreaks and deaths prove this isn't just a theoretical problem, but a real medical crisis.

The education requirement in SB 132 is hardly onerous, and those who remain opposed can still say no. Other states have found immunization rates improved under similar laws. It's a good compromise that serves the public interest.

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