Oregon seeks to boost vaccination rate, nation’s lowest

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Oregon leads the nation in the percentage of kids entering kindergarten with non-medical waivers for one or more vaccinations. State health officials hope a law taking effect March 1 changes that by requiring parents to get the facts before opting out.

Following the lead of Washington and California, Oregon is requiring parents to consult their family doctor or other health professional to qualify for a waiver of any of the vaccines against a dozen diseases required before their kids can enter school.

Oregon also offers an online alternative of watching a one-hour video that lays out the scientific evidence on the risks and benefits of immunization.

“We want to make sure parents and guardians receive science-based information about the benefits and risks of vaccine,” said Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator for the state Public Health Division. “There is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet.”

Since a similar law went into effect in Washington in 2011, the rate of waivers for kids entering kindergarten has dropped 27 percent.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that 6.4 percent of kids entering kindergarten in Oregon for the 2012-13 school year had a religious or philosophical exemption, amounting to 3,010 kids. The rate was tops in the nation and up from 5.9 percent the year before.

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