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Get the shot...or not?

Even though vaccinations are required for children attending public and private schools, preschools, childcare facilities and Head Start programs in Oregon, the issue of immunizing youngsters to prevent diseases remains controversial.

Ashland has the highest noncompliance rate in the state, with up to 25 percent of schoolchildren not having some or all required immunizations.

Wednesday is "exclusion day," when children will be prevented from attending classes if their immunizations aren't current or their parents have not sought a waiver. Parents can request an exemption for religious or philosophical reasons. Parents who have not yet complied should contact their children's schools.

Jackson County Health and Human Services created an Ashland Immunization Outreach Team to hold informational forums and poll parents on their reluctance to vaccinate their children.

People opposed to vaccinations for conditions such as polio, mumps, measles and other contagious diseases think the vaccinations are given too early, that they damage the body's natural immune system and that they cause other problems.

Vaccination proponents say immunizations are safe and protect the community from outbreaks. Ashland is vulnerable because of the large number of people who aren't vaccinated and because of the high rate of tourism, health officials say.

The county health department asks that parents report signs of contagious diseases. "We are not the vaccination police," says Belle Shepherd, the county's program manager for public health. "We will not mandate that someone get a vaccination, but we do want to advise people on the best ways to protect themselves and their family."

In an effort to encourage more conversation on this issue, the Tidings invited Bonnie Nedrow, a naturopathic physician, and parent Lorie Anderson to explain their position on vaccines based on their research.

By Bonnie Nedrow

An Acts Matter essay for the Tidings

When parents ask me as a naturopathic doctor about the pros and cons of vaccinating their child, I help them break it down into which vaccine they want, when they want to start and how many doses they will need. I counsel my clients to make a plan.

Waiting to vaccinate should be a conscious decision, not a delay based on fear.

During 11 years of private practice, I have read dozens of books and newspaper articles, searched hundreds of websites and taken numerous seminars, all with the intention of offering the most unbiased information on an extremely emotional topic.

The first concern with vaccinating young babies is the negative impact on the developing immune system. Babies are born with very little natural immunity and are reliant on passive immunity from breast milk. Stimulating the infant's immature immune system with a vaccine increases the child's risk of allergies.

Potential harm to the baby's developing brain is the second concern. This involves immune system inflammation and toxic damage by chemicals in the vaccine. One problem with assessing risk is that some individuals are more susceptible to chemicals genetically. Another problem is kids are exposed to other chemicals that can act in concert with vaccines. With 85,000 man-made chemicals, this can be a real concern.

So while waiting to vaccinate children until they're about 2 years of age will put them at greater risk for getting a vaccine-preventable illness, there is a balancing benefit of protecting their developing brain and immune system.

Bonnie Nedrow is a naturopathic doctor specializing in women and children's health and environmental medicine. She and naturopathic doctor Brigid Crowe will be offering a vaccine education class at 6:30 p.m. March 14 at Hidden Springs Wellness Center, 1651 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. For more information, call 541-488-8858 or email DrBonnie@BonnieND.com.

By Lorie Anderson

An Acts Matter essay for the Tidings

I heard vaccine opposers insisting vaccines don't work, aren't necessary, cause untold injuries and deaths, that unvaccinated kids are healthier, refusers more intelligent, natural alternatives available and herd immunity a lie.

Embarking on a personal quest about a decade ago to sort fact from fiction, I learned the importance of seeking science-based sources and of honing my "baloney detection" abilities.

After studying the vaccine debate, I came to this conclusion: Not much is 100 percent safe or effective, but the most credible sources reveal vaccine benefits far outweigh their rare serious risks, saving lives and reducing suffering.

Governmental, independent and research organizations worldwide are committed to maximizing vaccine safety and effectiveness. Meanwhile, anti-vaccine assertions are often fallacious, scientifically unsupported and misleading — yet compelling enough to result in destructive outbreaks and derailment of disease eradication efforts.

I first encountered anti-vaccine sentiment in Ashland when my now teenage son was a baby. A dad announced: "I won't poison my daughter's pristine system with vaccines!" My reflexive response: "Fine, our vaccinated children will protect yours." I received a disturbing introduction to "herd immunity" relaying this story to our pediatrician: "You're not protecting his child as much as his child is putting yours at risk," she said.

Maximum protection depends upon the community. Vaccination neglect, refusal and delay threaten our community's well-being, and while I empathize with parents' fears and concerns, it's hard to contain resentment for authority figures who twist facts and spread misinformation.

Lorie Anderson has lived in Ashland since 1976. She and her husband, Curt, have a daughter, 30, and son, 14. She is a former social work counselor and appeared on Frontline "The Vaccine War" on PBS in 2010.