The Southern Oregon University Research Center will conduct a study to find out why Ashland parents are reluctant to vaccinate their children for school.

The Southern Oregon University Research Center will conduct a study to find out why Ashland parents are reluctant to vaccinate their children for school.

The Jackson County Commissioners gave the go-ahead to partner with SOU on the $10,000 endeavor at their weekly public meeting this morning at the Jackson County auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

SOU will conduct interviews with Ashland parents and compile data. The study is to be finished no later than June 30, 2013.

Jackson County Health and Human Services will pay for the study out of its budget.

"I think this'll give us a lot of valuable information," said commissioner John Rachor.

It's a step, county health officials hope, in ensuring parents have the most accurate information about vaccinations. Of the 3,117 students enrolled in both private and public Ashland schools, 777 did not receive all their vaccinations on the grounds of religious exemption. It was the highest ratio reported in Oregon.

"We're not picking on Ashland by any stretch of the imagination," said commissioner Don Skundrick, adding that's just where the majority of Jackson County's unvaccinated population resides.

Parents who did not wish to have their children vaccinated cited a number of concerns in forums put on by the Ashland Immunization Outreach Team, saying vaccinations for diseases like polio and measles are given too early, and that they temper the body's natural immune system.

But vaccination proponents say not immunizing children against these diseases is dangerous to tourists and the Ashland population as a whole.

— Ryan Pfeil