Editorial: House should follow Senate's lead on immunization bill

Published Jun 12, 2013 at 05:00AM

Oregon has a problem with immunizations that Senate Bill 132 could help solve.

Passed by the Oregon Senate last week, the bill would force parents to confront the facts if they want their children exempted from school vaccination requirements for non-medical reasons.

The bill now goes to the House, where it deserves speedy approval.

Our state currently has the highest rate in the nation of kindergartners who haven’t had their shots. That leaves all students vulnerable, especially those who can’t be immunized for medical reasons.

Sadly, the cause is mostly the false belief that vaccinations cause medical problems instead of solve them. The proposed law would require parents who want to send their children to school without vaccinations to get an education on the subject from a medical professional or take an online interactive lesson.

The bill passed in the Senate along a party-line vote, with Republicans objecting that it violates First Amendment rights, freedom of religion and citizens’ right to make their own health care decisions.

In fact, it does none of those things. Under this bill, parents could still say no without explaining why. They would just have to get an education on the subject first, to enhance the chance that they make an informed decision rather than one governed by mistaken reports and conspiracy theories.

The proposal would have no impact on medically necessary exemptions.

Low immunization rates threaten to undo decades of progress in conquering what were once routine and devastating childhood illnesses. And the risk is not just an abstraction. Resurgence of measles and pertussis have been reported in the last year. Also called whooping cough, pertussis can be fatal to infants too young to be immunized.

Oregon’s current law is far too lax, allowing parents to exempt their children by just checking a box. SB 132’s education requirement is a modest step with the potential to cut the rate of exemptions and make our kids safer in the classroom.