PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Wednesday is School Exclusion Day in Oregon, the first day students must have proof they’ve been vaccinated.
Exclusion Day is “really just a shorthand for the deadline by which families have to have their children’s vaccination records in order, ideally with proof of vaccine or, if not, with an exemption,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines.
Under state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their immunizations or have an exemption.
Vines told KOIN 6 News even though it’s called Exclusion Day, their hope is to keep kids in school and make it easy for parents with last minute clinics on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both are at the East County building in Gresham.
“The vast majoritity of families vaccinate,” she said. “This is just a way of making it easy and making sure schools have up-to-date records on who is protected and who may not be.”
The measles outbreak of 2019 is an example of how and why vaccines are important for kids, she said. Measles is very infectious and easy to transmit but “it also has a really effective vaccine.”
Vaccines protect individuals, kids, the school community and the wider community, Vines said. “Parents know kids bring home whatever illness they get and they can pass it on to their families and their elders.”
But when people aren’t vaccinated, medical officials see pockets of people who aren’t immune and then a disease, like measles, spreads rapidly.
“We see what we saw a year ago which was a pretty large measles outbreak just north of us in Vancouver and Clark County,” she said.
Health officials said there were 28 confirmed cases of measles in Oregon in 2019.
That outbreak spurred interest in vaccines in 2019, but Vines re-iterated most families already vaccinate their kids.
“Our goal is just to make it important by setting a deadline and then helping families meet that deadline,” she said “Like anything that’s important, there has to be a deadline and our goal is to help families and kids meet that deadline by getting vaccinated.”
Local health departments sent nearly 23,000 letters to parents and guardians in 2019 with a warning of the impending deadline. As a result, a little more than 4000 children were kept out of school or child care until the necessary immunization information was turned in.
For this school year, nearly 5000 letters were mailed to parents in Multnomah County around February 5, 2020.
There still are exemptions for families who want or need them.
One is a medical exemption that families can apply for through their health care provider. This covers people who either have a medical reason not to get vaccinated or need to delay for some reason.
The other is a personal belief exemption, “which requires some education and some paperwork” for families to opt out of vaccinations.