To the Editor:

Recently, there have been multiple newspaper articles sounding the alarm that Oregon’s vaccine exemption rate for kindergarten students has sharply risen. Is this true, or is there more to the data than people understand?

The truth is that 22 vaccines are required for school. Someone receiving 21 of 22 shots, is still captured by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) as exempt. “Exempt” quickly morphs to “unvaccinated” in the press, and the public’s mind.  According to the OHA Immunization Program, for 2018, the numbrer of K-12 students with a non-medical exemption to all 22 required vaccines is only 2.6 percent. But that is not the number that is reported anywhere.

Many legislators misstate that Oregon’s unvaccinated rate is 7.5 percent.  This is simply untrue. In a 2018 memo to the Governor, OHA stated, “The vast majority of Oregon parents choose to fully immunize their children.”  According to the memo, the uptake for every school vaccine is well over 90 percent.  Why did OHA then issue a press release with the foreboding title of sharply increasing exemption rates, picked up by newspapers statewide? Is it to pave the way for an attempt in 2019 to remove Oregonians’ medical freedom, under the guise of an emergency?

Darcy Rapoza
Salem