Lane County Public Health says there are still more than 2,000 children who haven’t received their proper immunizations. According to them, a big reason for that number is people who refuse vaccinations because of religious reasons.
Health officials say they still encounter many people who are skeptical of vaccinations. They say for some faiths the use of certain vaccinations violates deep rooted beliefs. Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid some vaccinations because of their refusal to have any kind of blood transfusion.
“If any of the immunizations have whole blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, or plasma in it, then we may refuse them,” said Barrie Haanen, Jehovah’s Witness elder.
The large number of children who aren’t immunized in Lane County has health experts worried.
“It’s very serious. It’s life and death,” said Jason Davis, Lane County Public Health spokesman.
“Lane County has the third worst immunization rate for kindergartners in the state,” said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, Lane County Chief Health Officer.
Lane County health experts helped draft a bill for the Oregon legislature that would make it more difficult for families to avoid immunizing their children. One of the original authors says the bill would help Oregonians get a better picture of how important immunizations really are.
“We really need to look at what could happen, what has happened, and how to prevent it. And that’s what this bill is helping us do,” Dr. Luedtke said.
Proponents of the bill don’t want to undermine skeptics of vaccines, but they say the possible spread of disease is too dangerous to ignore.
“Unless 94 percent of our community is immunized, it will spread and it will get into our community, and even someone who’s been immunized can be affected by some of these diseases,” Davis said.
The bill wouldn’t make it impossible to have a religious exemption from getting vaccinated but it would force skeptical families to get educated on the science of vaccinations.