SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Protesters in Portland and Salem took to the streets to rally against vaccine requirements in Oregon.
They oppose a new bill that would force more parents to get their kids vaccinated. House Bill 3063 is still making its way through the house and senate but those who oppose it say it’s another form of government overreach.
“We are very concerned about the government having the right to tell us what to put in our bodies,” Salem protester Amy Dent-Beebe said.
If the bill becomes a law, children who are not 100% up-to-date on required immunizations would no longer be allowed to attend public or private school and daycare programs in Oregon.
“I don’t think that it’s the government’s job to mandate our community members and tell them they have to have their children vaccinated to attend school and give their kids an education,” parent Jessica Davidson said.
Protesters said more than 31,000 children in Oregon would be affected by this legislation.
Dozens of people, including children, participated in the “Educational Rally for Medical Freedom“ organized by parents and citizens from Central Oregon. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, spoke at the event, saying she was inspired by the turnout.
The recent measles outbreak in parts of Oregon has fueled lawmakers to tighten the state’s relaxed vaccine exemption policy. Currently, parents can decline required immunizations for religious, personal or philosophical reasons.
Doctors and health officials have said that vaccines have been proven safe and effective, and noted that serious vaccine side effects are rare. In a video message last month, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams pleaded with parents to “protect their children by getting them vaccinated,“ saying it is the best protection against measles.
Those who support the bill spoke up Saturday as well.
“I will continue to stand for science, the safety of Oregon children and for fact-based public policy,” Representative Cheri Helt of Bend said. “We must ensure that children, families and communities are not put at risk of illness and death from easily preventable diseases.
Washington state is also considering a similar proposal.
The Surgeon General of the United States, Jerome Adams, recently visited Vancouver due to the measles outbreak in Clark County. He said repeatedly that vaccines are important to save lives and are proven to be safe and effective.
State Senator Kim Thatcher said she stands behind the people who came out against the bill.
“Makes me feel like they’ve woken a sleeping giant, this is not the only protest going on in the state,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.