Members of the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee voted, largely along party lines, April 25 to send House Bill 3063 to the full House. The measure would tighten the rules that allow parents to decide for almost any reason to leave their children unvaccinated.
The House should approve the measure and send it on to the Senate.
To say that the bill has stirred controversy is putting it mildly. Hearings on the bill have drawn record crowds.
The bill removes the ability of parents to decline vaccinations for their children for certain diseases, except because of a child’s medical diagnosis. Recent events have demonstrated how loose vaccination rules cause public health problems. Just 19 years after the United States was declared measles-free, the country has seen more cases of the disease than it has in years. More than 700 Americans, almost all of them unvaccinated children and including more than 70 in the Pacific Northwest, have been infected this year. The disease is horribly contagious, and nearly 10% of those who’ve gotten sick have had to be hospitalized, at least three with pneumonia.
Measles is dangerous business. Yet many of the parents of today’s children are themselves largely unaware of the damage the measles did before vaccination was commonplace. In the bad old days before the first vaccine became available in 1963, 450 to 500 cases ended in death each year and another 1,000 led to encephalitis.
Members of the Oregon House and Senate should stand up in the face of vociferous opposition and vote to tighten the state’s vaccination rules. It’s the right thing to do.