BEND, OR -- Fewer Oregon parents sought non-medical exceptions to required kindergarten immunizations, this year. A report by the Oregon Health Authority shows 5.8% of all kindergartens claimed a non-medical exemption, compared to 7% in 2014. Stacy de Assis Matthews with the Oregon Immunization Program tells KBND News the statewide trend is reflected in local numbers, as well. "Deschutes County last year at kindergarten was at 10.1%. This year, Deschutes County is at 8.3%." She adds, "Up until this year, we saw a slow and steady increase every year for over a decade, and this is the first time we've seen a drop in the rate in Deschutes County and in nearly every county in Oregon."
Heather Kaisner with Deschutes County Public Health says, while she's pleased with the progress, there's still more work to be done. "These percentages are still too high when it comes to something like, if we had a Measles case in a school, you need a very high coverage - higher than 95% - to be protected." Crook and Jefferson county rates were nearly cut in half, as well.
De Assis Matthews believes the decline is due to new rules that went into effect this past year. "The new process required parents to get a little bit of education about the benefits and risks of immunizations prior to claiming an exemption. They could get that education by one of two sources: by watching an online module on the Oregon Health Authority website, or by talking to a healthcare practitioner."
An Oregon State Senate bill that would provide parents with more specific information as to the number of students vaccinated against certain diseases at each school is still working its way through the legislature. Supporters say it could increase awareness and help more parents get their kids immunized. Overall exemption rates by individual school will be available in early June.