The measles outbreak that started in an unvaccinated community in Clark County this January has so far led to more than 60 children contracting the disease, almost 90 percent of whom are known to be unvaccinated, with most of the remaining having unverified vaccination status.
Children who have measles will be at risk for potentially fatal complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (infection of the brain) until they recover from the infection. Once they recover, 100 percent of these children will be at greater risk for infections of all kinds for up to the next two years, due to the immune amnesia caused by the measles virus infecting the body's immune cells. Children under a year of age who have been infected will be at risk for a condition called Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE) for at least the next decade. This is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that we cannot detect or prevent, that sometimes develops years after measles infection in infants, for which there is no cure. It is universally fatal.
There is one silver lining to this outbreak, however. The appropriate panic and fear that many parents have experienced because of the unnecessary risk that the measles virus is currently posing to their children has led to a proposal for long-overdue vaccine legislation that would significantly reduce the chances that any vaccine-preventable disease will threaten the health of Oregon children again.
The proposed Oregon House Bill, HB 3063, would remove non-medical exemptions for school-entry vaccinations. This means that every child who attends school in Oregon would be required to get their lifesaving vaccines prior to attending, unless there is a valid medical reason, such as being severely immunocompromised, which would render the vaccine potentially dangerous or ineffective. Parents who choose not to protect their children with these vaccines no longer would be allowed to endanger the children in their community who either cannot receive the vaccine or did not generate adequate immunity to the disease from the vaccine (1 percent to 15 percent of vaccine recipients, depending on the vaccine).
House Bill 3063 already has generated a furor from anti-vaccine activists, who are currently lobbying your legislators to oppose this bill, and your legislators are listening.
If you want to keep your children and your community safe from unnecessary disease, hospitalization, medical intervention and possibly death — and save the hundreds of thousands of state tax dollars that otherwise will be wasted on treating preventable-diseases while doing so — contact your legislator and let them know that you support protecting the medically vulnerable through vaccines.
Vaccines are the safest, most well-studied, effective, cost-saving and life-saving medical treatment that mankind has ever created, without competition. Things that are more likely to seriously harm your child than vaccines include: Tylenol, antibiotics, "health supplements," gun injuries, car injuries, drowning, ingestion, getting struck by lightning, eating processed foods, excess screen time, and, of course, living in a community with low vaccination rates.
Go to www.oregonlegislature.gov to look up your representatives and call them to demand that they protect Oregon children by supporting HB 3063.
Dr. Ryan Hassan is a pediatrician practicing in Clackamas County.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.