SALEM, OR -- The Measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest has prompted State Representative Cheri Helt (R-Bend) to co-sponsor a bill that would end non-medical vaccination exemptions for school children. She says many preventable childhood diseases are making a troubling comeback, "We are seeing diseases that have previously been eradicated coming back, with this recent measles epidemic, and I believe this is only the tip of the iceberg."
Helt tells KBND News she realizes some groups will be upset with the provisions in the bill, "This legislation takes away all exemptions except medical exceptions, to opt out of vaccines." That includes religious exemptions. She says the focus is on improved public health and dispelling immunization myths, "These medications are scientifically proven;, they're safe, and they save lives. We have to make sure that we are able to have everybody get them because they are not effective unless everybody gets them." She says there’s a growing, but misguided, public sentiment that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent. She hopes HB 3063 will help educate parents, "We could see Polio come back; we could see Rubella come back. And we have to prioritize, as legislators, for public safety."
The bill remains in committee. "One of the things that you will see from me as a legislator is that I lead with my heart and I lead with my mind," says Helt, "And this is at the heart of what I believe is right, to make sure that we're prioritizing public health."