More than one quarter of kindergartners in one school district and about two-thirds of students at two schools in Ashland, Oregon are not vaccinated.
Like many states, Oregonians can opt out of school required vaccinations by claiming religious exemption. Statewide, 3.7 percent of kindergartners were exempt in 2007; however in Ashland, 28.1 percent of kindergartners were not vaccinated making it the least vaccinated city in the US. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) wants to know why.
In some schools and districts, the numbers of unvaccinated children are higher.
For 2007, 66.7 percent of students at Willow Wind Community Learning Center were exempt, while 65.9 percent of Siskiyou School students and 45.7 percent of John Muir Elementary students had exemptions, the department’s reports show.
The statistics are slightly misleading though. When parents decide to pick and chose vaccinations, as well as follow a different vaccination schedules, they are consider exempt by the state.
The CDC held a community meeting in Ashland to find out why parents were opting out of vaccinations. Parents who attended the meeting were paid $50 to talk about their worries over the risks of childhood vaccines. Ashland resident and parent Jennifer Margulis explains her concerns with required vaccines:
I never questioned the efficacy or intelligence of doing vaccines until I was in the hospital with my newborn daughter and a doctor tried to get me to give her hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease. I knew I didn’t have hepatitis B. I knew my husband didn’t have it. I knew there was no way she would come in contact with anyone with hepatitis B.
Other meetings will also be held in Birmingham, AL and Indianapolis, IN, but Ashland stands out with its “substantially higher” rates of unvaccinated children than the other two cities.
Ashland is a unique community of 20,000 people. Famous for its Shakespeare Festival and Lithia spring water, it is a liberal community in a conservative region. Ashland promotes solar energy and is also home to Barefoot Motors, producers of an all-electric heavy duty ATV. It’s not surprising this unique community would have the highest rates of unvaccinated children entering school in the US.