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Dirk VanderHart, OPB:

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, confirmed to OPB on Thursday that he’s ordered up a bill to eliminate a provision of Oregon law that allows parents to forego vaccinations for their kids because of religious or philosophical reasons.

“What’s happening in Vancouver [Washington] has made so clear how much of an important issue this is,” said Greenlick, chair of the House Committee on Health Care. He added that measles cases in the Portland and Vancouver area “could go to 100 or more. In fact, I suspect it will.”

Health officials said the outbreak of the highly contagious disease is only possible because of low vaccination rates in the Pacific Northwest. Around 7.5 percent of Oregon kindergartners are unvaccinated, according to the Oregon Health Authority — the highest rate in the country. Experts say an immunization rate of roughly 93 percent is necessary for a population to achieve “herd immunity” for measles.

“It’s still not gonna be easy,” Greenlick said. “There are a lot of people who are very much concerned and I would say to them: They have every right to make a bad decision in the health of their child, but that does not give them the right to send an unprotected kid to public school. So if they want to homeschool their kid and keep them out of other environments, that’s their decision.”

Paul Ciano

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