Oregon House passes bill to eliminate religious, philosophical vaccine exemptions

Oregon lawmakers have advanced a bill that would eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions for mandatory vaccinations, according to The Oregonian.

The bill, which would allow exemptions to vaccinations solely for medical reasons, passed the Oregon state House 35-25, largely along party lines but with two Republicans voting for it, including Rep. Cheri Helt, who introduced it, and four “nay” votes from Democrats. Gov. Kate Brown (D) has indicated she will sign the bill if it passes the state Senate.

ADVERTISEMENT

Parents would still be allowed to abstain from vaccinating their children if they only take online courses or are home-schooled, according to the report. The rule also applies to Head Start and day care programs.

Opponents of the bill argued the state lacked the right to mandate vaccinations despite the state’s record-low vaccination rates, according to The Oregonian.

"The Oregon Health Authority and the public health departments have done such a poor job convincing the residents of Oregon on the value of vaccines that they need the power of the government to come in and mandate it,” said Oregon state Rep. Bill Post (R).

State Rep. Andrea Salinas (D) argued that previous attempts at campaigns to persuade the public to vaccinate had proven ineffective, such as a 2015 vote in the legislature mandating that parents either watch an instructional video or meet with a doctor before opting out of vaccinations, after which exemption rates increased. In March, an unvaccinated child became the first tetanus case in Oregon in nearly three decades.

Communities nationwide have been affected by measles and chicken pox outbreaks, partly driven by the spread of anti-vaccine content. There have been more than 750 cases of measles reported around the country this year, more than double the total number of cases from 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles was declared eradicated in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago.