By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: A clash of ideas on immunization

You can understand much about the current immunization debate from just two words on each side of the controversy: Proponents of change refer to “required immunizations”; opponents call it “forcible injections.”

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

All states require vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, rubella and chickenpox. All but one add mumps; all but seven add Hepatitis B.

Those state laws respond to a simple statement from the federal Centers for Disease Control about the results if we stopped vaccinations: “Diseases that are almost unknown would stage a comeback. Before long we would see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today. More children would get sick and more would die.”

All but a few states allow exemptions from mandatory vaccinations. Those exemptions were challenged after this year’s outbreak of measles in 20 states, including Oregon. Like Washington state, Oregon is responding with proposed elimination of exemptions.

House Bill 3063, as currently amended in the House of Representatives, would remove exemptions based on parents’ philosophical or religious beliefs. Exemptions would be restricted to “indicated medical diagnosis” of the child.

Most controversial, non-immunized children would be banned from all school-related activities, except that children with indicated medical diagnosis could attend until August 2020.

The Washington state Senate approved a similar measure on Wednesday, nearly matching earlier action in the House. Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign a final version into law. Washington’s law affects immunizations for measles, mumps and rubella, while Oregon’s law would extend to all required immunizations.

In another dramatic response to the measles outbreak, Rockland County, New York, excluded unvaccinated children from all public places. That ban was put on hold by a judge who scheduled a hearing for today. Proponents reacted by proposing a 21-day ban from public places for anyone infected with measles.

Medical experts uniformly favor mandatory immunization laws, which have been opposed by pockets of ultra-conservatives as a violation of constitutional rights. However, if anyone doubts the ferocity some opponents feel for the Oregon plan, consider one of the 29 amendments proposed by Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer:

“Any lawmaker voting in support of HB 3063, or signing the bill into law, and their immediate family members shall have administered to them the bill’s mandated vaccines. Vaccination protocol shall begin within 30 days of the passage of the bill and adhere to the full schedule required for children under the bill.”

As they say when the posse is forming, saddle up!

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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