Legislative Updates

Current OPHA Policy Priorities (updated 1/13/2020)

In the summer of 2019, OPHA members were surveyed about their legislative priorities for the 2020 short session.  In order to be more effective during this session, we focused on two priority areas identified by members and confirmed by the board of directors: non-medical vaccine exemptions and climate change. 

 

Non-Medical Vaccine Exemptions (bill not published): 

OPHA is focusing on non-medical vaccine exemptions to ensure the protection from vaccine-preventable diseases for all populations.  

Children who have not been vaccinated pose a risk to both the individual child and to others in their school and community. During the 2017-2018 school year, 7.5% of Oregon children in kindergarten were unvaccinated for non-medical reasons. Individuals who exempt their children from vaccinations for non-medical reasons place other children at risk of catching and spreading preventable diseases and put our community immunity at risk. 

When the threshold of immunity gets too low, all of us become more vulnerable to diseases. Serious diseases that were previously thought to be eradicated in the US, such as measles and polio, are returning.  In terms of health outcomes, even single percentage point changes are huge.  Every person that is immune becomes one fewer person to spread infection. Measles, for example, is expected to infect up to 18 new persons for each ill person in the susceptible population. Vaccination reduces that reproduction rate, the pathogen hits diminishing returns, and eventually there are too few susceptible people left for the germ to keep spreading.

OPHA does not anticipate a bill related to vaccination this year, but would like legislators to reintroduce HB 3063 that eliminates non-medical exemptions from the School Immunization Law. 

 

Climate Change (bill not published): 

OPHA is prioritizing climate change legislation during this session because it is imperative to take action toward a changing climate, and its impacts on human and environmental health. 

The 2014 Oregon Climate and Health Profile Report issued by Oregon Health Authority outlines the health risks that will increase as our climate changes and describes the populations most vulnerable to these risks. Threats to health include increased heat, flood, drought, wildfire, infectious disease, allergens and more.

The American Public Health Association (OPHA is the Oregon state affiliate) also prioritizes climate change as one of the biggest public health threats today—especially to health equity. Click here to learn more about APHA’s Climate Change Health Initiative. 

OPHA supports comprehensive legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, holds polluters accountable, creates new job opportunities, and advances health equity and resiliency in our most-affected communities.