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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Advance Tougher Vaccine Opt-Out Regulations


Oregon lawmakers want to make parents think twice before deciding not to have their kids immunized. The Oregon Senate Thursday approved a measure that would add steps to the way parents can opt out of the requirement.

The Oregon Health Authority says more than six percent of children enter kindergarten without the required number of vaccinations. It has been the highest highest rate in the nation, and it's been climbing.

And that has public health officials concerned. This measure would require parents who want to skip the immunizations for religious or other non-medical reasons to get a doctors' signature -- or, watch an educational video produced by the Health Authority.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward is also a family physician. She called the measure a good compromise between individual liberties and the collective need to protect kids.

"It is not an unreasonable imposition," she said. "It is not a denial of religious liberty to require that people get accurate information so that they can make an informed choice for their children."

The bill passed the Oregon Senate on a party line vote. Republicans said the measure doesn't include enough protections for religious groups that don't believe in vaccinations. The bill now heads to the Oregon House.

On the Web:

SB 132: Opting out of immunizations - Oregon Legislature 
Oregon immunization requirements - Oregon Health Authority