Oregon Schools Are Sending Unvaccinated Kids Home for 'Immunization Exclusion Day'


Vaccines are a controversial topic in the parenting world. Many parents are fully supportive of them, while others outright refuse to get their kids vaccinated, and in-between are those who approach the subject with plenty of skepticism. No matter what side parents are on, most are well aware of the pressure public schools are placing on them to have their kids vaccinated. Hoping to curb the number of kids skipping vaccines, Oregon has instituted an "Exclusion Day," essentially barring unvaccinated students from attending school.


In 2017, in an effort to address dwindling vaccine rates, Oregon passed a bill requiring every public school in the state to obtain accurate immunization records for each student. To uphold this law, the state began instituting "School Immunization Exclusion Day," a day that marks the exodus of non-vaccinated children from Oregon's public school system.

This year's exclusion day is today, Wednesday, February, 21. School-aged students whose measles, polio, chicken pox, hepatitis A and B, HIB, DPT, and MMR vaccinations are not current -- or who do not have valid medical or non-medical exemptions on file -- are being sent home from all schools and childcare centers in Oregon.

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The Statesman Journal spoke with Jonathan Modie from the Oregon Health Authority, who explained that parents were asked to submit immunization records or exemption paperwork to their children's schools through the mail or in person before the start of the school day on Wednesday. Those who failed to do so will are not allowed to have their child in school. There is a small reprieve, though -- at any time on or after the 21st of February, parents can submit the proper documentation and have their child immediately permitted to attend class again.

But parents who don't want to vaccinate their kids have very few options. As of 2014, Oregon does not allow non-medical exemptions in place of vaccinations. Oregon Health Authority says parents who want to claim a non-medical exemption must either complete an online course about vaccines and submit a certificate of completion or speak with a health-care provider and have them sign a Vaccine Education Certificate before their students will be allowed to return to school.


In 2017, the Oregonian found that 65 percent of public charter schools in Oregon lacked herd immunization against the measles. With these schools serving over 13,000 students and the last "large, multi-state" measles outbreak occurring as recently as 2015, medical professionals believe  "Exclusion Day" will help curb dangerous outbreaks of preventable diseases by encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated.

Newsweek reports that in 2017, more than 4,000 students were barred from attending Oregon schools after Exclusion Day. While Oregon does seem to be the first state to go to these "extremes," they are far from the first to have official laws barring non-vaccinated kids from entering school. The CDC reports that all 50 states and DC require kids to have at least some vaccinations before starting school. While 47 of these states allow for religious exemptions, only 17 allow for "philosophical exemptions."

"Immunization keeps schools and the entire community healthy and safe," Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator in the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, told Precision Vaccinations. "It is the best way to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles."

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When asked about the morality of Oregon's laws "forcing" parents to vaccinate their kids, New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan told Newsweek the responsibility of the government outweighs possible parental concern. "Vaccination is a community act much as are gun safety and drunk driving laws. Oregon, by setting this tough standard, is looking out for all Oregonians, standing up for community values and public health," he said. "Kids can't choose. When parents make poor choices government should protect infants and children first."

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