As of today, Oregon students without proof of up-to-date vaccinations will be held out of schools. So-called “School Exclusion Day” comes as the state tries to deal with the nation’s highest rate of childhood vaccination exemptions and, specifically, with a lower than average rate of anti-measles immunizations. Oregon parents were given until February 21 to provide proof that children were up to date on the required vaccinations, including measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, and polio, and are now — despite some protests — out of luck if they have not facilitated those inoculations.
Approximately two weeks ago, thousands of Oregon parents were sent letters from the state’s Health Authority warning them that their children were behind on the necessary shots and explaining that “parents must provide schools, child care facilities with kids’ vaccine records.” If their “records on file show missing immunizations”, their “children will not be able to attend school or child care” until they are properly vaccinated. Other states, including Texas and Illinois, have similar measures in place to prevent unvaccinated students from putting other students at risk.
Last year, the Oregon Health Authority sent around 30,000 warnings to parents and over 4,000 students were banned from school when their parents or guardians failed to heed the state’s warning and vaccinate their kid. The idea is to maintain what scientists call “herd immunity” and protect children from the decisions made by other childrens’ parents.
There are, however, some exceptions to “School Exclusion Day,” primarily for children who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons. However, children can also be exempt if their parents choose to not vaccinate them children for a “philosophical, religious, or personal” reason. To prevent parents from using these exemptions as an excuse, Oregon requires that any parent looking to claim an exemption for their child must first go through an online education program or go see a doctor.
While banning kids from school may seem harsh, the fact remains that unvaccinated children can put other students at serious risk of disease. And while keeping students from school is hardly ideal, it may finally force parents to get their kids the vaccinations they need to stay healthy.