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Southern Oregon Parents Rally Against Vaccine Bill

Liam Moriarty/JPR News
Parents and children gathered at the Plaza in Ashland on Friday morning to protest a pending bill that would remove most vaccination exemptions for school children.

Children who have not been fully vaccinated would be excluded from attending schools and daycare centers under a bill that passed the Oregon House on May 6. Parents who oppose the measure held protests in Southern Oregon on Friday.

About 200 people, many of them parents with small children, crowded into the Plaza in downtown Ashland. 

Ivy Ross, one of the event organizers, told the crowd that despite official assurances that childhood vaccines are proven safe and effective, there are legitimate reasons for concern.

"You get to call and say, ‘I did the research myself, I looked at all the science. I don’t believe you. I’m worried. And I’m not taking my kid in to do it the way the government does it,'" she says.

Phoenix resident Sarah Collins says she came out to defend her right to be a parent.

"I am a mom," she says. "I do so much research on the things I put into my child’s body. And it needs to be my decision about what goes into her body."

Ashland father Brett Belan says he’s not opposed to all vaccines. But he notes that the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out more than $4 billion in claims since 1988. Most vaccines may be safe for most people, he says, but …

"To me there’s a risk," he says. "And when there’s a risk, I get a choice. And right now I’m not seeing a choice."

Retired naturopathic doctor Rick Kirschner says the bill leaves out a key consideration.

"If those lawmakers had put something into the bill to look into the safety part of this, to acknowledge that there are people injured by vaccination, we’d be in a different place with all of this right now," he says.

Since 1988, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid more than 6,500 claims. Officials note that amounts to fewer than one for every million vaccine doses given.

A similar protest was also held in Medford.

Under House Bill 3063, unvaccinated children could be barred from public or private schools and child care programs, and any school activities that would bring them into contact with other people.

The Oregon Senate is slated to take up the bill this week. Governor Kate Brown has said she’ll sign it if it gets to her desk.