How Easy Are Vaccine Exemptions? Take A Look At The Oregon Model


As measles outbreaks continue in the Northwest and across the nation, newly revealed health records from Oregon suggest it’s surprisingly easy to opt out of required vaccinations in that state — as in several others.

In Oregon — which has the highest kindergarten vaccine exemption rate in the U.S. — about 95% of parents whose kids skip one or more vaccines use a print-your-own certificate to do so.

That’s according to data from the Oregon Health Authority, which shows that of more than 31,500 non-medical vaccine exemptions submitted last year, nearly 30,000 were documented by parents who watched an online education video and then printed out a do-it-yourself form.

Fewer than 2,000 chose the second option: to talk to a health care provider and obtain a signature.

The state, where 7.6% of kindergartners were exempt from one or more vaccines in the 2017-18 school year, has had an education requirement for non-medical exemptions in place since 2013.

But Oregon state Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Democrat who has proposed a bill to eliminate non-medical vaccine exemptions, criticized the online educational module.

“It’s obviously letting too many people off the hook,” he said.

It’s clear why parents are overwhelmingly choosing the online option, said Dr. Saad Omer, a vaccine and infectious-disease expert at Emory University in Atlanta: convenience.

Omer and other public health officials find this trend worrisome, because kids who remain unvaccinated can catch — and spread — dangerous diseases such as measles, posing a risk to themselves and the wider community.