Vaccinations fall, measles rise in Oregon

A vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella (KOIN 6 News, file)
A vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella (KOIN 6 News, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Measles are on the rise in Oregon and state health officials are concerned about a potential outbreak among non-vaccinated people.

Oregon has the highest non-medical vaccine exemption rate for kindergartners in the United States. Currently, 6.4% of kindergartners have not been vaccinated.

Infograph by Piktochart, April 7, 2014
Infograph by Piktochart, April 7, 2014

In the first three months of this year, there have been six cases of measles. In all of 2013, there were just five, and only one in 2012.

On March 1, a new Oregon law took effect requiring parents claiming a non-medical vaccine exemption to receive education about diseases and vaccines.

At Washington Park, KOIN 6 News easily found parents, like Melissa Rolaff, who oppose vaccination.

“Lots of different reasons,” she said, “but it just comes down to my personal choice for each.”

State health officials said most measles cases in the US involve people who have not been vaccinated that were exposed to infected travelers coming into the country.

“Our public health challenge is to make sure everyone who is around that person is vaccinated,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak, the manager of the Acute & Communicable Disease Prevention Section at the Oregon Public Health Division.

“We want them to be aware that measles is still out there. It can be serious and, rarely, even fatal.”

Cieslak said he’s worried, especially if one of those cases lands among a group of school kids who haven’t been vaccinated.

“I’m really afraid of how much spread there’s going to be.”

On the Net:

New nonmedical exemption law Q&A

Required vaccinations in Oregon

Vaccination exemption rates by county

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