By Abby Spegman
Following the passage of legislation that made some vaccine exemptions invalid, health officials are reminding parents to ensure their children have all the immunizations they need to go back to school.
Oregon law requires children in public or private schools, preschools or child care facilities be protected against measles, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A and B, and varicella. One dose of the Tdap vaccine — a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster — is required for seventh- through 11th-graders, which catches some parents off guard.
“Most of the vaccines were received real early prior to kindergarten, and then all of a sudden in seventh grade there’s a booster,” said Jill Johnson, immunization program coordinator for Deschutes County Health Services.
Parents can get medical exemptions if their child can’t get a vaccine for a medical reason, or a nonmedical exemption for any other reason. But lawmakers this session passed SB 895 that made exemptions for nonmedical reasons signed before March 1, 2014, invalid. Before that date, parents just had to sign a waiver to have their child exempt.
Starting in March 2014, parents had to learn about the benefits and risks associated with vaccines, either through an online video or with their child’s health care provider, but those with previous exemptions were grandfathered in.
Now, parents with old exemptions must provide proof their child has the required vaccines or get a new nonmedical exemption before exclusion day Feb. 17, 2016, when students without vaccines or exemptions are sent home from school.
The new law also requires schools and child care facilities have their immunization and exemption rates available at their main offices, online and available to parents, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Johnson said the county will work with local schools to generate those reports, though it is unclear when they will be available.
Oregon’s high exemption rate was a focus for lawmakers this session following a measles outbreak earlier this year that started at Disneyland. A proposal to eliminate nonmedical exemptions was withdrawn after protests from parents.
The rate of Deschutes County kindergartners with nonmedical exemptions for one or more vaccines fell for the first time in a decade this year, from 10.1 percent to 8.3 percent.
To make an immunization appointment with Deschutes County Health Services, call 541-322-7400.
— Reporter: 541-617-7837,