Democratic leaders in the Oregon Senate agreed to give up on two high-profile bills in exchange for ending the Republican walkout. But as it often does, the squabbling of partisan politics by Oregon’s representatives has endangered the very people they are sent to Salem to protect.

Republicans, who are in the minority this year, walked out, placing signs on their desks that read “REAL PERS REFORM NOW” and denying Democrats the quorum needed to vote on a billion-dollar business tax package.

The tactic worked, forcing Democrats to change course and exposing a possible weakness of the Democratic supermajority.

But in exchange for the Republicans to return to their desks, Democrats agreed to kill House Bill 3063, a law that would have effectively ended religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions thus strengthened Oregon’s ability to combat deadly and highly-contagious diseases.

The increased spread of misinformation regarding vaccines has led to more and more parents opting to leave their children unvaccinated. Oregon has a nation-leading 7.5% of 2-year-olds who have at least one non-medical exemption and several schools in Douglas County have vaccination rates lower than 90%.

There’s no way around it: Non-medical exemptions put our community at risk.

Requiring a child to be fully vaccinated before attending school is the right — and smart — thing to do. Vaccines protect us against diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis, polio, measles, and whooping cough.

Medical exemptions would still exist to protect individuals who fall into the rare category of those adversely affected by vaccinations. But dodging vaccines due to concerns of complications is akin to having a child swim across a river because bridges aren’t 100% safe.

It’s disappointing that society seems unwilling to look at the science and determine for themselves that vaccines are safe, effective and uncontroversial. But because a growing percentage of parents seem to believe hand washing and a healthy diet will sufficiently squash these sicknesses, legislation preserving the progress vaccines have made may be the only option.

And it wouldn’t involve any so-called governmental overreach or abuse of parental rights opponents rally behind. Sure, it may have been your right to shirk the seatbelt, shun the helmet, or sip a beer while behind the wheel, but the risk to the public’s health was too great. Now, those laws are non-negotiable.

Vaccines should be non-negotiable — and bipartisan — too.

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