Oregon alters school vaccination exemption requirement to include nonmedical exemptions

The Oregon Public Health Division provided more information on Tuesday regarding the state's new nonmedical exemption law for vaccination and how it relates to vaccination requirements in schools.

The law renamed the "religious exemption" the "nonmedical exemption" to make allowances for parents who decline vaccinations based on philosophical reasons.

Parents who wish to use the exemption will be required to complete an online course developed by the Oregon Health Authority or visit a healthcare provider to discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination.

Upon completion of the exemption requirement, parents will receive a Vaccine Education Certificate to present to their child's school.

OPHD said children who received vaccinations are protected from 14 diseases by the time they turn 2 years of age. Vaccinations prevent approximately 33,000 deaths, and reduce healthcare costs by $9.9 billion.

Oregon said the immunization rate of new kindergarteners is approximately 93 percent, but exemption rates have been climbing.

The department said that immunizations play an essential role in childhood and community health. When children who have not been immunized are surrounded by people who have been immunized, they are protected because the diseases are not present in the community. For the community to maintain a level of immunity, vaccination rates for highly contagious diseases, such as measles, need to be at approximately 93 percent.