US to Ashland: Why so many kids without shots?
Federal health officials want to know why so many children in Ashland don't get the common vaccinations — more than a quarter of the kindergartners in the school district and about two-thirds of the pupils at two schools.
So, Ashland will be among three U.S. cities where the Centers for Disease Control holds a community meeting as it gathers information for its vaccine safety studies.
Dr. Ben Schwartz, a pediatrician and adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services' National Vaccine Program, said hearings are being held in Birmingham, Ala., Indianapolis and Ashland.
The two larger cities are typical communities, while Ashland stands out with its "substantially higher" rates of unvaccinated children, Schwartz said. The Ashland hearing is Jan. 10.
"We wanted to learn from people who had more concerns about vaccines," he said.
Oregon requires schoolchildren to be vaccinated against 11 diseases, but parents can get a religious exemption. Religion is defined as "any system of beliefs, practices or ethical values."
Statewide, 3.7 percent of kindergartners had exemptions in 2007, while 28.1 percent of Ashland kindergartners were exempt, Jackson County health department statistics show.
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.
Belinda Brown, Ashland's school nurse coordinator, said some children get some of the vaccinations.
If a parent signs a religious exemption for one vaccination but follows the remaining requirements, the child is counted as an exemption, she said.