United States Department of Health and Human Services

Oregon's legislature spent part of last year working on a bill that would end non-medical exemptions from vaccines for children.  In the end, the House passed the bill, but it was withdrawn in the Senate, part of the deal to bring the Republicans back from a walkout. 

The story across the state line is a bit different: California passed a bill ending non-medical exemptions in 2016.

Children attending public schools in Oregon can still forgo vaccinations with a personal belief exemption, but California did away with those waivers years ago. The result: increased immunization in high-risk areas like Trinity County.


If the vaccine controversy has reached full boil, allow Bernice Hausman to at least reduce the heat.  Hausman works at the Penn State College of Medicine, as the humanities chair.  So she views medical issues from beyond the confines of medical science and practice. 

And in the Vax/Anti-Vax debate, she finds a lot of fingerpointing and minimizing of concerns.  Hausman's new book is called Anti-Vax: Reframing the Vaccination Controversy

The book traces the roots of the skepticism and seeks common ground between sides that are throwing gauntlets and accusations. 

Events came quickly on the vaccine front in Oregon, over a matter of days.  Demonstrations against a legislative bill that would end most non-medical vaccine exemptions for children reached a fever pitch, just at the time the Senate Republicans vanished, stalling Senate business. 

Their return for a vote on new taxes was arranged in exchange for the dropping of two bills, one on gun controls... and the vaccine bill (HB 3063, which had already passed the house).  Senator Jeff Golden of Ashland, who had raised concerns about the bill, visits with his perspective on what happened. 

Then we revisit an earlier interview with pediatrician Paul Thomas and journalist Jennifer Margulis about their approach, written as The Vaccine-Friendly Plan


Nobody is firing guns, but the Russians certainly seem to be engaged in a cyber war with the United States. 

The efforts to create argument and discord extend into the vaccination debate here.  Researchers reported recently that Twitter bots and trolls got involved in passing along information, solid and not, to amp up the battle between pro- and anti-vaccination forces.  And it's been going on for years. 

CDC/Public Domain

It would not be unusual to see so many headlines about measles... if this were 1919.  But 100 years later, the disease had become rare indeed, until the distrust of vaccines led more parents to opt not to have their kids immunized. 

So Clark County, Washington (Vancouver) has an outbreak of dozens of cases, one of which is from across the river in Portland.  Jackson County Health officials point out that there are NO cases of measles in the county at the moment. 

But they're putting out reminders of vaccines and their uses just the same. 

Public Domain

The vaccine resistance continues to grow.  And Oregon remains one of the most un-vaccinated places in the country. 

Josephine County leads the state in avoiding vaccines for children, and Jackson County is not far behind. 

This is obviously a concern to the people who run the immunization program in the Oregon Health Authority

Centers for Disease Control

Only two students in Ashland schools were confirmed to have pertussis (whooping cough) when Jackson County Health officials declared an outbreak. 

But as they have pointed out in the past, pertussis is not something to take lightly.  It's one of those diseases that had become rare until parents concerned about vaccines stopped having children vaccinated against it. 

Now under-vaccinated students are required to stay out of school for three full weeks, and that includes students who came in contact with the children with confirmed cases.  27 were excluded at first, down to 18 as of September 25th.

United States Department of Health and Human Services

Pertussis, or whooping cough, was almost unknown in America 40 years ago. 

Cases in 1976 numbered barely over a thousand.  But in the years since vaccine resistance grew, so did cases of pertussis, up to nearly 50,000 just five years ago. 

A new study of outbreaks and vaccine resistance show them in close proximity physically. 

Oregon Legislature Considers Vaccine Law

Feb 14, 2017
James Gathany/CDC

It's not just that people have a fear of needles; some of them also have concerns about what comes OUT of the needles. 

Vaccines have become increasingly controversial in recent years. 

A group called Oregonians for Medical Freedom supports legislation in Oregon's state capital to provide greater freedom for parents to make medical decisions for their children. 

One of the bills currently circulating is SB579, which is titled "Relating to informed consent for vaccinations." 

The Work It Takes To Create A Vaccine

Feb 14, 2017

Much like Zika virus, rubella--German measles--makes people feel lousy for a while, then generally goes away on its own. 

But rubella in a pregnant woman can be as damaging to the fetus as Zika.  Scientists worked for decades to find a vaccine for rubella, finally succeeding in the late 60s. 

This is the story told in Meredith Wadman's book The Vaccine Race.

A Plan For Delivering Vaccines Safely

Aug 31, 2016
United States Department of Health and Human Services

Want to start a debate?  Mention the word "vaccine" in a room full of parents. 

Arguments rage these days about when and even whether to vaccinate children against dangerous diseases.  Oregon is high on the list of states with un-vaccinated children. 

Portland pediatrician Paul Thomas lays out a plan for getting vaccines, but more slowly than medical providers usually advocate.  He and co-author (and JPR contributor) Jennifer Margulis detail the approach in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

Vaccines: Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Jun 3, 2016

Even if you've taken a side in the debate over vaccines, you will probably want to hear Dr. Andrea Ferrante out. 

Ferrante is an assistant professor of biology at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and he's just received a grant to study the molecular processes that make vaccines work. 

If your first response is "huh?"... consider this: the creator of vaccines, Edward Jenner, had no idea WHY vaccines worked, and even today's scientists have plenty of questions. 

Science Reaches For HIV Vaccine

Jul 24, 2015
Public Domain

  HIV is still a scary virus for many people, but not the death sentence it once was.

People can now live long lives with HIV, provided they get the proper treatment and medication.  Could a vaccine be far away? 

It is certainly under study, but has been for a long time. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, has been involved in the quest for decades now. 

Vaccination Exclusion Day In Oregon: Feb 18

Feb 9, 2015
James Gathany/CDC

The whole country is talking about vaccines and vaccine exclusions, now that measles cases are popping up all over. 

And it's one of the diseases we thought vaccines got rid of. 

Parents of public school kids in Oregon face a February 18th deadline to vaccinate their kids.

Whooping Cough And Chicken Pox Flare Up

Dec 30, 2014

California is seeing more cases of whooping cough (pertussis) than at any time in the last 70 years. 

And Jackson County on the Oregon side is seeing more cases as well. 

Pertussis and chicken pox are both up in number, causing concerns for county health officials. 

California Whooping Cough Cases Reach Epidemic

Jun 23, 2014
Public Domain

By early June, California already had more cases of pertussis (whooping cough) than in all of last year.

Translation: there's a whooping cough epidemic in California. 

Pertussis is another disease for which there is a vaccination, but the disease has come back from the brink of disappearing. 

Measles Returns From The Brink

Jun 9, 2014
James Gathany/CDC

The year is not even half over, and there are already nearly as many measles cases in Oregon (five) as all of last year. 

Which is a problem, when you consider that public health officials considered the disease "eliminated" 14 years ago. 

For a dead disease, 280-plus cases across the country (60 so far in California) this year is a lot. 

Oregon Vaccine Exemptions Tighten

Feb 24, 2014
James Gathany/CDC

Parts of our region lead the country in avoiding vaccines. 

Ashland is especially high in the incidence of parents seeking vaccine exemptions for their children.  That may change under a law that goes into effect next week. 

Gently Approaching Vaccination Resistance

Oct 25, 2013
James Gathany/CDC

Vaccines provide resistance to disease, but concerns about side effects provide resistance to the vaccines. 

And the concerns are especially pronounced in Ashland, which has one of the highest vaccine avoidance rates in the country.