A bill proposed in the Oregon State Legislature would prevent parents from refusing required immunizations on behalf of their children for philosophical reasons.
The bill is a response to a recent series of measles outbreaks in the Pacific Northwest and other small communities in the U.S.
Proponents say the bill is necessary to reduce the risk of people — particularly those with compromised immune systems who cannot get vaccinations — from contracting preventable diseases. Opponents say the bill is an infringement on their right to choose what medical treatments their children receive.
House Bill 3063 prohibits parents from declining required immunizations unless it poses a risk to their child or others close to them because of a serious medical diagnosis. Children who don’t have required immunizations and who are not exempt from them would be prohibited from attending school or any school-related activities.
“The vaccines that will be required under this bill are all well established and have decades of safety experience — over 50 years for the measles vaccine,” said Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, the Douglas County Public Health officer, who testified on behalf of the Oregon Medical Association at a recent hearing before the House Committee on Health Care.
He said in more than 39 years as a pediatrician and in the 30 years practicing in Roseburg, he has “given over 100,000 immunizations with no long-term ill effects, but these immunizations have saved countless lives, hospitalizations and much human suffering.”
HB 3063 addresses the concern in the medical community that kids who are not immunized pose a serious risk to people who don’t have the option to get vaccinated because their immune systems are compromised, Dannenhoffer said.
“If we have high numbers of unimmunized kids, measles is always going to be around and it’s going to be a tremendous concern for kids with cancer or for kids with transplants,” he said. “So right now I have a bunch of kids in my practice who have cancer and have heart transplants, and they’re absolute sitting ducks if measles were to come to this community.”
Diseases such as measles are highly contagious, Dannenhoffer said. “If you have measles and go to school, you will infect almost everybody who is not immunized,” he said.
But opponents of the bill think the concern in the medical community doesn’t outweigh the right of people to choose what medical treatments their kids receive.
Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, said he opposes the bill because it takes away people’s right to choose.
“HB 3063 is an example of government overreaching and I will voting against the bill,” Leif said in an email.
Leif said the government has a responsibility “to ensure peace, security, and domestic tranquility.” He fell short of saying the government is obligated to protect vulnerable people from others’ decisions that can cause serious illness.
“Our constitution is clear that those responsibilities are balanced against individual freedoms and liberties,” Leif said. “In this country, parents are responsible for the decisions made on behalf their children.”
State senators Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, and Floyd Prozanski, D-South Lane and North Douglas counties, were not available to comment on the bill.
Leif said the bill is not about the efficacy of vaccines. “It is a question of parental rights,” he said.
But testimony submitted at the public hearing show many parents who oppose the bill doubt the consensus of the medical community that vaccines are safe and necessary to prevent outbreaks of certain diseases.
Erin Saylor, a Roseburg resident, said she opposes the bill because it’s a “violation of our medical and religious freedom.”
“Keeping immune systems strong and intact with healthy diet, exercise, vitamins and using good hand washing practices will do more to keep (vulnerable people and infants) healthy and safe far more than any vaccine would,” Saylor said in an email.
She said if the bill passes, she would be forced to take her kids out of school and keep them from important school-related events. Kids who are not immunized could attend online school, according to the bill.
“We homeschooled in the past and that would not be an issue for our family,” Saylor said. “Homeschooling would be the only option the way this bill is written. This bill denies children their right to an education and social activities that every child, regardless of their health status should be able to enjoy in the U.S.”
She said parents should not be required to vaccinate their kids if there is a risk of an unwanted reaction.
There are three types of adverse reactions that can occur following vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mild reactions are the most common and can cause redness near the place of injection. Moderate reactions are less frequent and can cause a fever. Severe reactions can cause anaphylaxis, but occur rarely — one in every 1 million doses.
David Nardone, a retired primary care physician and professor emeritus at Oregon Health Sciences University, said in his testimony before legislators that the public good should outweigh personal choice in the case of the bill.
“I believe it is disingenuous for parents to decide not to vaccinate their child by banking on the immunity of the herd to protect their own unvaccinated child,” Nardone said. “It takes all parents to collaborate to protect our children.”
At this time, people have the ability to not contract diseases such as measles despite not receiving vaccinations because a sufficiently high percentage of the public has received the vaccinations and suppress the disease’s prevalence — an effect called “herd immunity.”
But if large numbers of people were not immunized, the prevalence of the diseases at issue would dramatically increase, Dannenhoffer said.
Dannenhoffer said vaccination rates in Douglas County match those of the state. He said philosophical exemptions are lower in Douglas County than the state average. Ninety-four percent of school-aged kids in the county were fully vaccinated as of March 2018, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
“Typically the philosophical reason is based on incorrect data,” Dannenhoffer said. “There’s terribly misinformative data on the internet. And this terribly misinformative data suggests that vaccinates are not safe or not effective. And that’s just not true.”
Roseburg Public Schools announced its finalists for the superintendent position Wednesday: Charan Cline, Jared Cordon and Josh Middleton.
The school board and a screening committee reviewed 22 applications and initial interviews were conducted last week.
Second interviews will be held in executive session after background and reference checks have been completed for each of the finalists.
Finalists will also come to the district to meet with the community and staff, and tour schools. The public will have a chance to meet the candidates during those visits, currently scheduled for Thursday.
The News-Review looked into each of the finalists and here is what is known so far:
Cline has been the superintendent at Yamhill-Carlton School District in Yamhill since 2012.
Cline was a finalist for the Roseburg Public Schools superintendent position in 2015 before Gerry Washburn was ultimately appointed to the position. Washburn was placed on administrative leave in August 2018 by the district and the two parties officially parted ways in September.
Cline has the strongest ties to Douglas County out of the three finalists, working as the superintendent for North Douglas School District for two years and as the Douglas Education Service District director of student achievement and assistant superintendent. He was a middle school principal in the Winston-Dillard School District for four years and an assistant principal at Douglas High School for three years.
In 2017, Cline and the Yamhill-Carlton School District made headlines when its school board eliminated the book “Eleanor & Park” from its eighth-grade curriculum without following district policy.
A parent found a piece of erotic-themed fan fiction related to the coming-of-age novel — which the parent mistakenly thought was in the book itself — and posted her displeasure on Facebook, which was later picked up by conservative talk radio host Lars Larson. Cline demanded Larson issue an apology, and the author of the book, Rainbow Rowell, requested the radio show delete its Facebook post. Larson pulled the post, but offered no apology.
Before becoming an administrator Cline was a social studies teacher at Philomath High School for six years. He received his doctorate in educational leadership from George Fox University in April 2018 and has a master’s degree in geography from the University of Oregon.
He is also a finalist for the superintendent position at Lebanon Community Schools.
Cordon has served the Beaverton School District as the administrator for elementary curriculum, instruction and assessment since 2016.
He was an elementary school principal at two different schools in the Beaverton School District before moving to the district office and was a high school vice principal for three years.
While serving as the principal of Rock Creek Elementary School in 2013, Cordon helped parents found Rocket Academy, a parent-led after school math class.
“The math program (in school) is pretty fast-paced,” Cordon told the Oregonian at the time. “There were kids I was really concerned about that we still weren’t doing a good enough job with.”
He worked to get parents with experience in subjects to tutor the children struggling in subjects.
Prior to becoming an administrator, he taught English as a second language in the Corvallis School District for three years and Spanish at Oregon State University and Chemeketa Community College.
Cordon has a Master of Arts in teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in environmental science, from Oregon State University.
Middleton has been the superintendent of Middleton School District in Middleton, Idaho, for the past three years.
Middleton applied for at least two other superintendent positions this year. He was a finalist for the North Bend superintendent job, which went to Kevin Bogatin, and was a finalist for the superintendent position at Lewis-Palmer School District in Monument, Colorado, before withdrawing from consideration.
During an interview in North Bend, Middleton said he has family throughout western Oregon, according to an article by The World.
In November, Middleton School District received nationwide criticism after a photo of Middleton Heights Elementary staff members wearing Halloween costumes was posted to the school district’s Facebook page. Half of the group was wearing sombreros while the other half dressed up as President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
Middleton took to Facebook to apologize and the school board placed the 14 staff members on paid administrative leave. The Middleton Heights principal was the only staff member who was not reinstated following the district’s investigation.
Before moving to Idaho, Middleton was an administrator in Montana, working as the assistant superintendent at the Billings School District and the superintendent for Laurel Public Schools.
He spent 11 years as a social studies teacher before becoming an administrator.
He has a doctorate in educational leadership from Montana State University and a Master of Science in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.