By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

As the measles outbreak continues to make news in the Portland/Vancouver area, health departments across Oregon are gearing up for Exclusion Day, when children without up-to-date immunizations are sent home from public school.

Letters will be sent home to parents on Feb. 6. Two reasons trigger the letters: The child is in need of immunizations, or the child’s school immunization records are incomplete.

Exclusion Day is Feb. 20. Prior to that date, the Baker County Health Department will have several walk-in clinics for those needing vaccines.

Those dates are Friday, Feb. 15, and Wednesday, Feb. 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. No appointment is needed.

An appointment for other days can be made by calling the health department at 541-523-8211.

Parents need to bring the child’s immunization record, the exclusion letter, and a health insurance card for billing.

A student entering kindergarten or grades 1-6 are required to have these vaccines in the following doses:

• 5 DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis)

• 4 polio

• 1 varicella (chickenpox)

• 2 MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)

• 3 Hepatitis B

• 2 Hepatitis A

Students in grades 7-10 need one dose of Tdap (booster). Several other vaccines are recommended for this age group, although not required.

Statewide, 94 percent of students from kindergarten to grade 12 had had all required vaccines in 2018, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Medical exemptions require a doctor’s recommendation. In Oregon, only 0.1 percent of students had a medical exemption in 2018, according to OHA.

Since 2013, a non-medical exemption requires a parent to receive education about the benefits and risks of immunizations from a health care provider or an online module at www.health
oregon.org/vaccineexemption

The number of non-medical exemptions dropped in 2014, but has steadily increased since. In 2018, the state recorded 5.2 percent of students in grades kindergarten to 12 had a nonmedical exemption. That number for Oregon kindergartners was 7.5 percent.

“We encourage parents to get good information,” said Nancy Staten, administrator of the Baker County Health Department.

For resources about vaccines, she suggests the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center.)

Cases of the infectious diseases for which vaccines are required are rare, but none has been eradicated from the world.

“These diseases are still there,” said Alicia Hills, nursing supervisor at the Baker County Health Department. “The best protection is to get the vaccine.”

She cites the recent outbreak of measles in Clark County, Washington, which includes Vancouver.

As of Thursday, Clark County Public Health reported 25 confirmed cases and 12 suspect cases. All but one are under the age of 18. At least 21 of the people infected were not immunized and three had an unverified immunization record.

Hills said those who are unsure of their immunization history are encouraged to visit the health department, where staff can access the state records.

Measles is highly contagious and does not require personal contact. The virus can live for several hours in the environment — a person can be infected by entering a room that a person with measles left two hours before.

A person with measles is contagious up to one week before the rash appears, and up to seven days after, according to the CDC.

The measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, and the disease was eliminated from the United States in 2000 (e limination is defined as the absence of the disease for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area). The disease, however, is still active in other parts of the world.

“All it takes is an airplane ride,” Hills said.

Measles symptoms begin with a high fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a rash that usually begins at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. A person can spread the virus before they show symptoms. People are contagious with measles for up to four days before and up to four days after the rash appears.

Hills said that a prenatal panel detects whether or not an expectant mother has immunity to measles. If she doesn’t, a vaccine i s recommended after delivery. Because MMR is a live virus vaccine, it cannot be administered during pregnancy.

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