The Measles Debate: Why some are strongly for, or against, vaccinating their children

    Oregon has the highest rate of children who are legally exempt from school vaccination requirements in the country. (KATU file image.)<p>{/p}

    LANE COUNTY, Ore. - The measles outbreak in Clark County and the Portland area is sparking a debate about vaccination exemptions.

    One Oregon lawmaker is working to introduce a bill that would only allow parents to exempt their children from vaccinations for medical reasons.

    It happens every year. Thousands of letters are mailed out to parents across Lane County, reminding them that some of their child's vaccines aren't up-to-date.

    Here in Oregon, both medical and philosophical or religious reasons are valid excuses not to get certain vaccines.

    Last year, 0.1 percent of the state's grade school students were medically excused from some vaccines, while about 5 percent were exempt for non-medical reasons.

    All parents who fall under the exemption category must complete the letter, ensuring their students can go to school on next Wednesday's Exclusion Day, which would prevent unexcused or non-vaccinated kids from class.

    But Lane County public health reports 94 percent of a population must be vaccinated in order to protect the public from disease outbreaks, which is not the case in all Lane County schools.

    State Representative Mitch Greenlick is working to introduce a bill this week that would eliminate all vaccine exemptions except medical ones.

    “Those kids are innocent, and we need to be protecting them and that's a government responsibility,” said Greenlick.

    But not everyone agrees.

    “I believe it should be a person’s choice to decide what is injected into their body,” said Stacey Black, a Lane County resident.

    Black has done her research, and she's concerned about safety, saying some vaccines could have adverse reactions that haven't been tested properly.

    “People need to be able to weigh the risks and the benefits of each individual vaccine,” said Black.

    Black says parents might feel more confident in certain vaccines if the government and pharmaceutical companies had more checks and balances.

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