As the national debate over vaccinations heats up, Oregon’s legislature is taking a stand with a new bill, House Bill (HB) 3063, which will require all children in Oregon be vaccinated in order to attend school. This bill will also make sure everyone, regardless of financial standing, is able to get the required vaccines.
The summary of this bill on the Oregon State Legislature’s website states that the bill: “Removes ability of parent to decline required immunizations against restrictable diseases on behalf of child for reason other than child’s indicated medical diagnosis. Directs Oregon Health Authority to establish outreach and education plan regarding disease control in schools. Allows child who is not immunized for reason of indicated medical diagnosis to continue attending school in person until August 1, 2020.”
HB 3063 means children will either have to be vaccinated or homeschooled. After August 2020, children who do not have all the required vaccinations will not be allowed to attend public schools. The sponsors for this bill are Representative Greenlick (D-Portland), Senator Thomsen (R-Hood River), Rep. Helt (R-Bend), Rep. Mitchell (D-Astoria), Rep. Schouten (D-Beaverton) and Rep. Wilde (D-Central Lane and Linn Counties).
This bill comes in the wake of a measles outbreak in Washington and Oregon with over 70 cases, according to The Oregonian. In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and these new cases are being attributed to non-vaccinated individuals. HB 3063 would declare this a state emergency, but some disagree with that.
On March 7, there was a “No on HB 3063” rally paired with a Vaccine Injury Awareness Day event at the Capitol. According to the rally’s Facebook event, 173 people were in attendance, but reports from Fox 12 Oregon have the numbers higher than 200, including children accompanying their parents at the rally. Families were at the Capitol all day in order to share their stories of vaccine injuries with state representatives. According the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, in 2018 there were 19 hospitalizations due to vaccines and four deaths in the U.S. It is important to note that before the measles vaccination, hundreds of people died from just measles alone in the U.S., according to the CDC. However, Section 6 of HB 3063 is dedicated to creating an educational outreach program to help Oregonians learn about the diseases their children are being vaccinated against and about how vaccines work to help families worried about vaccine injuries.
There have been many vocal oppositions to this bill, largely focused on two main issues, the first being that people believe they have the right to a religious or philosophical exemption from vaccinations, and the second being the health risks involved with vaccinations.
“It gets at some very core principles for Republicans,” Rep. Rob Nosse said to the Willamette Week. “In a state that is very unchurched, the right to worship is felt very strongly among Republicans, even among Republicans who believe in vaccines. It’s a tough issue for them.”
Dr. Paul Thompson, a pediatrician in Beaverton who was at the protest on March 7 said he changed his voter registration from Democrat to Republican because of the vaccination debate. “I’ve been a Democrat my whole life,” he said in an interview with the Willamette Week. “It felt like the Democrats stood up for the little guy. But Republicans, starting with President Donald Trump, have embraced the anti-vaccine agenda: I mean, I would love [Trump] if he could just fix this vaccine thing.”
While all 50 states do currently require children to be vaccinated to attend public school, there is currently no federal policy requiring this. If HB 3063 passes, Oregon will be only the third state that only allows medical exemptions but not religious or philosophical from vaccinations. On March 21, HB 3063 was referred to the Joint Committee of Ways and Means. If it is approved by the Committee, it will then be voted on by the House.
In a press release, Helt seemed confident that the bill will pass, saying, “It’s time to replace the discredited idea that these vaccines are dangerous and ineffective with scientifically grounded, fact-based public policy.”