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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Oregon Votes To Make Immunization Opt-Out Tougher


  Oregon parents could soon find it harder to skip having their children immunized.

The Oregon House Wednesday sent a measure to the governor that would add steps to the way parents can opt out of the requirement. A similar law went into effect in Washington state two years ago.

More than 6 percent of Oregon children enter kindergarten without the required number of vaccines. That rate is among the highest in the nation, and it has public health officials concerned.

The new law would require parents to get a doctor's exemption or watch an educational video produced by the Oregon Health Authority to opt out.

Opponents said the measure doesn't include enough protections for religious groups that don't believe in vaccinations. But motivating the wide majority to vote for the changes were memories of now rare childhood diseases.

This is Republican state Rep. Vicki Berger: "Whooping cough was a major, serious issue. Pertussis, rubella, measles. These are serious diseases. Polio! I remember children in iron lungs. These have all gone away because of immunization."

Lawmakers in Olympia approved a measure in 2011 that goes even further than the Oregon bill. It requires a face-to-face meeting with a doctor. Washington state's immunization opt out rate has fallen in the past two years but like Oregon, is still above the national average.

On the Web:

Oregon Senate Bill 132:

Oregon Immunization Requirements:

Washington School Immunization data: