Whooping cough still on the rise
Pertussis, or whooping cough, remains a problem in Oregon, with 890 cases reported 2012, up from 328 reported in 2011.
But evidence so far suggests more parents are aware of the rising risk and are immunizing their children accordingly.
The state tracks the number of families who opt out of receiving immunizations, signing a waiver requesting an exemption for religious or medical beliefs.
Last year, for the first time, state health officials also collected exemption data by specific vaccine.
Stacy de Assis Matthews, the state’s immunization law coordinator, said 5.8 percent of families with kindergartners statewide requested belief exemptions for one or more vaccines in 2011-12, up from 5.6 percent the year before.
Linn County is below the state average, with 4.8 percent of families with kindergartners opting out. However, figures in Linn County are skewed because it includes the online Oregon Connections Academy, which has 3,000 children from all over the state, Matthews said.
Benton County tops the state average at 6.7 percent. Curry County, in Oregon’s southwest corner, has the highest number of exemption requests at 12 percent.
The vaccine with the lowest number of opt-outs statewide was for pertussis. The vaccine with the most opt-out requests was for measles, Matthews said.
The state doesn’t track data on why parents make those choices. It also allows parents to opt out based on any system of beliefs, practices or values. “It doesn’t have to be based on what we traditionally think of as religion,” Matthews said.
A communications specialist with the state health department is now working on a plan to see if more education is needed in the higher-rate counties, and to investigate what parent concerns are, Matthews said.