Oregon's school vaccine exemption rate remains high
Oregon has one of the highest vaccine exemption rates for kindergartners in the country.
- 7% of kindergartners across the state were granted exemptions for required vaccines as of the 2022 school year, below only Idaho (9.8%) and Utah (7.4%).
Why it matters: Vaccinations reduce the spread of illnesses — some potentially fatal — that once plagued the country, such as polio.
- While children are generally required to get a number of vaccinations before attending public school, exemptions can be given for medical and non-medical reasons (such as religious or moral objections), depending on local rules.
- Studies have found an increased risk of infection from vaccine-preventable diseases among exempt children.
Driving the news: Although COVID-19 vaccination is not required for young children attending public school anywhere in the U.S., concerns over that shot may be fueling broader vaccine skepticism — a trend that existed before the pandemic.
- Parents who seek a non-medical exemption must either complete an online vaccine education class or have a medical professional sign a vaccine education certificate.
Flashback: In 2019, when Oregon's vaccine exemption rate reached an all-time high of 7.7%, several measles outbreaks hit the Portland area. The majority of cases were children under 10 who were unvaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.
- Following the measles outbreak, the state's vaccination exemption rate saw a gradual decline as many parents rushed to immunize their children from the disease.
- Oregon saw an all-time low of 5.4% in 2021, when children returned to school in person following months of remote learning. Since then, however, exemption rates are ticking back up.
Zoom out: The nationwide median kindergarten vaccine exemption rate was rising even before the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing from 1.4% in 2012 to 2.6% in 2019.
- It has stayed at 2.5% or higher since 2020, coming in at 2.7% in 2022, the latest year for which data is available.
Between the lines: Even as the kindergarten vaccine exemption rate ticks up, Americans overwhelmingly support childhood vaccinations, per a recent Pew Research Center survey.
- When it comes to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot, 88% of Americans said the benefits outweigh the risks, compared to 10% who feel the opposite.
Yes, but: Just 70% of Americans now say healthy kids should be vaccinated as a requirement to attend public school, Pew found — down from 82% in the pre-pandemic era.
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