Our Opinion: Vaccination exemption limits praised
In Early February, this newspaper editorialized that the Legislature needed to close the vaccination loophole that gives our region some of the lowest levels of immunization against preventable childhood illnesses in the nation.
Today we praise the Legislature and the House Health Care Committee for taking the first step.
Last Thursday, the committee took hours of emotional testimony on House Bill 3063, which would remove religious and philosophical exemptions for Oregon's required childhood vaccines, leaving in place only a medical reason for a child to avoid vaccinations.
This is smart science. This is smart lawmaking. The committee should move the bill to votes in the House and Senate, and the governor should sign it into law.
Immunization is one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century, wiping out illnesses like polio and — yes, briefly — measles in America. The opposition is based on internet rumors and celebrities' theories. Not on medicine or history.
Portland pediatrician Dr. Shaili Rajput offered a great argument for this in a Feb. 28 opinion piece: "The rallying cry of this movement is fervent, emboldened not by fear rooted in fact, but by fear originating in fiction that has since been debunked," Rajput wrote. "Yet this fiction continues to be propagated by sincere, well-intentioned parents who ultimately share a common goal with pediatricians and parents like me: We want to keep our children safe and healthy."
Yes, the opponents, or anti-vaxxers, are well-intentioned. And yes, their goal is to protect children.
But the pro-vaccination side also has reported harassment and threats from the anti-vaccination side, and that's not free speech, that's bullying.
"The tenor of this debate has gotten unhealthy, and frankly, dangerous," said Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, who also is a physician.
The recent outbreak of measles in Washington and Oregon could have been avoided. Word came Friday that travelers at Chicago's Midway Airport on Friday, Feb. 22, might have been exposed.
Enough. Vaccines work and vaccines are safe. People who opt not to immunize their children put every child around them at risk.
The chief co-sponsors are Reps. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland; Cheri Helt, R-Bend; Sen. Chuck Thompson, R-Hood River. Bravo, all.
The House Health Care Committee, under the gavel of Lake Oswegan Rep. Andrea Salinas, deserves praise for holding the hearing. Both chambers and the governor must now show the same wisdom and guts, and make House Bill 3063 the law of the land.