New statistics show number of unvaccinated kids increasing

New statistics show number of unvaccinated kids increasing

PORTLAND, Ore. - As of May 3, Oregon had 156 reported cases of whooping cough, including three in the Riverdale School District in Multnomah County. But despite outbreaks like this, new numbers reveal an increasing number of children in local schools aren’t getting all their vaccines.

Numbers just released for the 2011-2012 school year reveal more Oregon parents are choosing not to get their children vaccinated for religious reasons. It's a trend that's steadily increased over the last 12 years.

Last year, 5.6 percent of kindergartners in the state had a religious exemption for at least one vaccine. That went up .2 percent this school year. State immunization officials say that at 6 percent, the risk for outbreaks gets serious.

In Multnomah County, the exemption rate is past that mark – at 7.6 percent. Curry County has the highest at 12 percent.

Local pediatrician Jay Rosenbloom says if this trend isn't stopped, it will be deadly.

"If it continues too far, we'll go back to the days where there were massive outbreaks. That there were kids dying of measles," he said.

Rachel Wilde is a frequent visitor to the doctor’s office. She’s had all five of her kids vaccinated. She said she worries about other parents turning their backs on the protection vaccines can offer.

"I think it's really scary, and with the recent pertussis coming back and those kinds of diseases that are really scary for kids," she said.

Wilde is glad all her kids are protected and hopes they won't be impacted by someone else's choice.

Even though children can still get sick if they are vaccinated, the chances are much lower. Kids without the whooping cough vaccine, for example, are 22 times more likely to get the disease.

Oregon makes it really easy to opt out of vaccines, though. Parents just sign their name on a form and their kids can still go to school without all their vaccines.