BEND, mineral – Parents organized a demonstration in Bend's Drake Park last Saturday, one of which was held around the state to oppose legislation to end non-medical vaccination exemptions for students attending public schools or private.
Bill 3063 of the House would eliminate the current exemptions for religious and philosophical vaccines and affect the families of over 31,000 children in the Oregon.
The participants in the gathering, one of the five inmates around the state on Saturday, wore yellow shirts that they said "Land of the free, not with HB 3063" and contained signs that promoted similar messages.
The organizers said that the topic is not whether they are for or against vaccines, but that parents should have the ability to make crucial health decisions for their child, without government interference or consequences.
"This is not a vaccine problem – this is a problem of freedom," the parent April Groom said, standing next to her son. "It's about who owns our bodies and who gets to decide what is injected into his arm."
Also On Saturday, state representative Cheri Helt, R-Bend, one of the main sponsors of the measure, issued a statement outlining the recent changes to the bill. He said the recent measles outbreaks in Portland and Clark County, Washington., "emphasize the importance of this legislation."
Helt said he "wants to fight the pervasive public sentiment that medically safe vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent."
"I will continue to support the science, safety of children in the Oregon and fact-based public policy," Helt said. "We must ensure that children, families and communities are not put at risk of disease and death from easily preventable diseases. This concerns the protection of those who do not have the chance to be vaccinated. We must protect our most vulnerable young people through the Immunity of the herd."
After several meetings with opponents of the measure, Helt said that "he modified the bill to address some of their concerns as: limiting the scope of the bill to contain only the vaccines currently required in Oregon, opening up participation in schools virtual and lengthening the time completely vaccinate students until 1 August 2020," rather than going into effect this fall.
Helt said he is also working with Senator Steiner Hayward "to address concerns about the accessibility of medical exemptions." The draft law is currently in the Joint Committee for the ways and means, pending further action.
The amended law, HB 3063-A, lists 10 "restrictive diseases," parents could not refuse the required vaccinations for, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, rubella, mumps and hepatitis A and B. The Oregon Health Authority could recommend other diseases to which children they should be immunized.
The measure would prohibit children without such vaccinations from "attending school activities in person" but states that they could attend school through online courses.