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The Oregon Republican Party Is Stoking Anti-Vaxx Paranoia

The official Twitter account accused Democrats of "ramming" vaccinations "down every Oregon parent's throat"

by Emma Ockerman
May 8 2019, 2:42pm

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Oregon’s Republican Party isn’t on board with this whole “forced injections” thing — otherwise known as mandating kids get their shots against life-threatening illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella.

“Oregon Democrats were just joking about 'my body, my choice' while rammimg (sic) forced injections down every Oregon parent's throat,” the state’s official GOP account tweeted Monday night, apparently referencing the Democrats’ argument that Republicans shouldn’t interfere with a woman’s ability to access abortion.

The Oregon Republican Party has not yet responded to a VICE News request for comment about whether the tweet represents the party’s official policy platform on vaccines.

Oregon is one of 16 states where parents can claim a moral reason for not vaccinating their child with the mandated and highly effective measles, mumps and rubella shot before they enroll in school. Parents who have fallen prey to vaccine misinformation, such as inaccurate claims that the measles vaccine results in autism, take advantage of the moral exemptions.

Amid a nationwide measles outbreak, though, such exemptions are getting a second look; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 765 cases of the disease across 23 states since the beginning of this year. That’s the largest measles outbreak since measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.

Oregon’s Democrat-controlled House on Monday passed a bill that would strip that exemption and save the state some outbreak-related money, recognizing the exemptions had fueled the genesis of the 71 measles cases between Oregon and Washington earlier this year. (Washington’s House passed a similar bill in March.) Oregon’s bill was introduced with bipartisan support, but ultimately passed 35-25, with only two Republicans supporting the legislation, according to the Oregonian.

If enacted into law, Oregon’s new vaccine rule would still allow parents to pass up on shots for legitimate medical exemptions. Otherwise, unvaccinated kids would have to be home-schooled, according to the bill. Some anti-vaxx parents aren’t having that, saying the new rule violates their right to make decisions on behalf of their child. Hundreds of parents have showed up to protest the bill at every step of the legislative process, according to the Statesman Journal in Salem, including a child wearing a yellow Star of David that read “not vaccinated.” In some cases, these parents have earned Republican support.

Meanwhile, California, Mississippi and West Virginia have successfully prevented parents from using their moral beliefs to not vaccinate their kids. The reason why physicians and some legislators say the “moral” allowance deserves backpedaling has to do with something called “herd immunity.” It takes a vaccination rate of 95 percent to protect a population from an unwieldy disease. Alan Melnick, the public health director in Clark County, Washington — the source of the outbreak in the Pacific Northwest — previously told VICE News his county had vaccination coverage of around 80 percent at K-12 schools, making the area ripe for an outbreak.

"In exchange for the freedom that opponents are asking out of this bill, we chip away at herd immunity as more and more people make that decision not to vaccine,” Democratic state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell said Monday, according to CNN.

Cover: Hundreds of people, including families, attend a rally at the Oregon State Capitol protesting a proposal to tighten school vaccine requirements Thursday, March, 7, 2019, in Salem, Oregon. (AP Photo/Sarah Zimmerman)