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Measles has Oregon lawmakers' attention

Oregon has one of the highest rates of vaccine refusal in the country

With measles cases confirmed in 14 states, the debate about the importance of vaccines is once again center-stage.

Oregon has one of the highest rates in the country of parents opting out of vaccinating their children. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned and may propose legislation about it.

“I believe that with very limited exceptions all children should receive all childhood immunizations,” said state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a Democrat.

Republican state Sen. Chuck Thomsen agreed: “We need to look at immunizing all our children.”

Oregon law currently requires all children to have mandatory vaccinations in order to go to school, but there are both medical and personal exemptions available.

“They have to produce documentation from their physician or they complete an online training course to debunk some of the myths around immunizations,” Steiner Hayward said.

Steiner Hayward and Thomsen said they’d like to see more children in Oregon vaccinated. Though there is no set agenda for a stronger bill, they are looking at options.

“I think it’s important for us to look at the science and get back to maybe making it mandatory to do that to protect our kids,” Thomsen said.

Steiner Hayward added, “As a physician and as a mother I want all Oregon children protected against a disease like measles which can be deadly.”

The 78th Oregon Legislative Assembly began its session Monday.

‘People underestimate how serious measles can be’

The measles outbreak in more than a dozen states has refocused attention on the vaccination issue.

In Oregon, 7 percent of kindergartners are not vaccinated, the highest rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medical professionals in the state said measles is a highly contagious disease that can be caught even without direct contact with an infected person.

“If measles shows up in the right place it can affect a lot of people and I think people underestimate how serious measles can be,” said Ann Thomas, public health physician.

To date, only one confirmed case of measles has been reported in Oregon in this current outbreak.

This report originally appeared as two articles on the KOIN 6 News website: Measles has Oregon lawmakers attention and 'People underestimate how serious measles can be'