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Many county students not vaccinated against preventable diseases posted on 05/01/2019

The debate of whether or not to vaccinate, and the crisis that accompanies it, has shot into Clackamas County.

County public health officials announced in mid-April that despite vaccines being one of the safest and most effective health interventions, the resulting preventable diseases are on the rise.

“For over fifty years, immunizations have saved more than a billion lives and prevented countless illnesses and disabilities in the United States,” said Dr. Sarah Present, Clackamas County Health Officer. “Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough, are still a threat that continue to infect U.S. children, resulting in hospitalizations and deaths every year.”

A Public Health Impact report released in April cited a growing trend of delaying vaccinations, or exempting from them entirely, has contributed to increases in vaccine-preventable outbreaks in the U.S. The report also points to the lack of access to health care services being a significant issue.

The vaccination coverage numbers in Clackamas County are alarming. Of county kindergartners, 9.1 percent, or 397 total, have at least one non-medical exemption, a figure that is higher than both the national and state rates. Of K-12 students, 6.2 percent, or 3,820 total, have one or more non-medical exemptions. County students K-12 have 3.4 percent, 2,124 total, who are completely unvaccinated.

The U.S. is headed to surpass the record number of measles since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. The total number of new cases reached 626 in late April, the highest number in five years. Twenty-two states have reported cases of measles, including Oregon.

The reasons for the decline in vaccinations are complex and likely driven by a mix of scientific, socioeconomic, sociocultural and political factors, according to county health officials.

“Vaccines are not just about individual choices,” said Richard Swift, Director of Clackamas County’s Health, Housing and Human Services Department. “They are about our connection and responsibility to others. Declining vaccine coverage has introduced a number of harmful infectious diseases back into our communities and is threatening lives.”

More information is available on the health division’s website at www.clackamas.us/publichealth.

By Larry Berteau/MT




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