Two short months ago, Oregon Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a Democrat from Beaverton, invaded many of our lives by making a national proclamation on the CBS Evening News that she was seeking to make vaccines in Oregon mandatory for all children. She let those who choose to selectively vaccinate their children or who vaccinate in a different way know that she thought they were idiots.
As CBS reported:
Hayward is proposing legislation to eliminate all non-medical exemptions. She says she doesn’t buy the argument that there’s a personal belief.
“A belief has to be based on something,” said Hayward. “You don’t have to demonstrate that you really understand the issue, that you’ve really done valid research on this. You just have to say, ‘nah, I don’t think it’s the right idea for my kid.’”
Senator Steiner Hayward was really just getting started. Her mouth-dropping conniption fit at the first public hearing on SB 442 — her mandatory vaccination bill — gave many of us even more insight into the type of legislator, and person, we were dealing with. She lectured, at length, a citizen who brought up the fact that she had made private medical decisions for her daughter that went against the advice of her doctor — she’d exercised her medical freedom while seeking to deny us ours!
A doctor herself, Senator Steiner Hayward quickly fell into the stereotype of everything many of us hate about doctors: condescending arrogance, dismissiveness towards those who disagree with her, and a know-it-all approach to anything that has to do with “science” — the holy grail of medical insight that lowly parents simply don’t understand. Dr. Steiner Hayward was riding in on her white coat to save us all…from ourselves.
A sock-puppet for Big Pharma, Senator Steiner Hayward somehow miraculously had the same idea to introduce legislation that was being introduced in 20+ other states at the exact same time to try and remove parental rights and informed consent from Oregon’s vaccination policy.
What a coincidence!
Two short months later, things are in a very different place indeed:
- Senate Bill 442 : DEAD — Senator Steiner Hayward’s signature legislation to deny parents their medical freedom and informed consent — went down in a blaze of glory with many members of her own party abandoning her legislation. (Note: it appears California is headed the same way after SB 277's sponsor Senator Pan experienced a drubbing before the Senate Education Committee.)
- Senate Bill 673: ALL BUT DEAD — Senator Steiner Hayward’s misguided attempt to convince Oregon’s Dentists they need to vaccinate children with Gardasil appears to have suffered a similar fate, we wrote at length about this wacky and wasteful bill here. It hasn’t officially been killed, but appears to have no place on the legislative agenda.
- Senate Bill 895: Senator Steiner Hayward’s last stand — after many confusing and circuitous revisions, it’s our best guess that Senator Steiner Hayward’s final attempt at revising Oregon’s vaccine policy will get a hearing and at least a lukewarm reception at the Senate Education Committee work session scheduled for tomorrow, April 16th at 1pm. Her “shame and blame” bill seeks to violate as much medical privacy of Oregon’s citizens as her legislative colleagues will allow her to do, and we hope you do your part to let legislators know to “back off” and say No to 895.
For two months, Senator Steiner Hayward has been blatantly lying to Oregonians and fomenting unnecessary panic and suspiciousness.
We want to start with this point. Senator Steiner Hayward’s entire basis for pursuing vaccine policy legislation in Oregon in 2015 is based on a blatant lie.
Last night Senator Steiner Hayward told the Statesman Journal:
“Steiner Hayward added that she still believes erasing personal-belief exemptions is a good policy, but that her priority is seeing immunization rates get back to a safe level for community protection. If Oregon can achieve that without getting rid of nonmedical exemptions, she won’t continue to push for it, she said.”
Here’s the problem: Oregon doesn’t have declining immunization rates. She’s lying!
Take a look at this chart that the Oregon Health Authority provides on its website right here:
We realize it’s kind of hard to read this data so we quickly graphed it for you, just to look at the vaccination rates over time, as reported from the highly accurate and heralded ALERT immunization system here in Oregon:
By any reasonable interpretation, Oregon’s immunization rates appear very stable.
If you’re still not sure, how about this quote of even more recent data from the Oregon Health Authority?
“Oregon adolescent immunization rates increased slightly from May of 2013 to May of 2014.”
For a national snapshot, look at this incredible chart — created by the CDC — that shows how much immunization rates have RISEN over time nationally, the same exact pattern that Oregon has followed.
Senate Bill 895–5, a parent’s guide
Senate Bill 895 has gone through several machinations.
Senate Bill 895–5, as presently written, removes some of the parts of previous versions of the bill that felt objectionable to parents, most specifically the requirement that parents have a “medical consult” with a physician who must sign their exemption form has been removed.
How do you ever trust a bill written by Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward that has to do with vaccine policy in Oregon? She LAMENTS that she was unable to pass draconian legislation to make vaccinations mandatory!!
More specifically, the “shame and blame” portion of Senator Steiner Hayward’s bill is alive and well and has actually been expanded.
Senate Bill 895–5 is a bill that requires both the Oregon Health Authority and schools in Oregon to disclose information about both vaccine exemption and vaccination rates.
Specifically, Senate Bill 895 spells out that schools, local health departments, and children’s facilities will need to report annually to the OHA the following information (this language is from the bill, we have made it more legible):
(2)(a) Each local health department, school and children’s facility shall report annually to the Oregon Health Authority on:
(A) The number of children in the area served by the local health department, school or children’s facility; and
(B) The number of children in the area served by the local health department, school or children’s facility who are susceptible to restrictable disease as prescribed by the authority’s rules pursuant to ORS 433.273.
(b) Each school and children’s facility shall report annually to the authority on the number of children in the area served by the school or children’s facility who are in attendance at the school or children’s facility conditionally because of an incomplete immunization schedule.
(c) Each local health department shall make available to each school and children’s facility in the area served by the local health department data on the immunization rate, by disease, of children in the area. Upon request, the authority shall assist local health departments in compiling data for purposes of this paragraph.
(d) A child exempted under ORS 433.267 is susceptible to restrictable disease for purposes of this subsection.
Then, Senate Bill 895 will require schools to disclose the following to parents twice a year:
(3)(a) For the purpose of providing parents with the information necessary to protect their children’s health, each school and children’s facility shall make available the information reported and received by the school and children’s facility pursuant to subsection (2) of this section:
(A) At the main office of the school or children’s facility;
(B) On the school’s or school district’s website or on the children’s facility website, if available; and
(C) To the parents of the children who attend the school or children’s facility, in the form of a paper document or electronic communication that includes the information in a clear and easy to understand manner.
(b) The information required to be made available under paragraph (a) of this subsection must be made available at the beginning of each school year and not later than one month after the date that children may be excluded as provided by ORS 433.267.
Also, the bill will require all individuals who had previously received a religious exemption to vaccination, before Senate Bill 132 was enacted in 2013, to now watch the video module in order to maintain their exempt status based on repealing the following:
SECTION 4. Section 4, chapter 516, Oregon Laws 2013, is repealed.
Note: We are not lawyers, but it’s our understanding that repealing Section 4, Chapter 516 may violate religious protection in Oregon.
Why do schools need to disclose this information?
Why do parents need an “immunization report card” sent to them two times per year?
Senator Steiner Hayward has given us many reasons, just not the same one:
April 9, 2015 Testimony by Senator Steiner Hayward (Reason #1)
Last week on Thursday, April 9th, Senator Steiner Hayward testified before the Senate Education Committee on the merits of SB 895's first proposal — promotion of school-level vaccine exemption rates.
From her testimony advocating for SB 895, Senator Steiner Hayward’s opening characterization, was that SB 895 would:
“Enhance parent awareness if their child is medically fragile, about local immunization rates.”
She went on to say:
“The first part in terms of informing parents about local immunization rates regards schools. And, one of the things we know is that although immunization rates for schools across the state are available from the Health Authority website most parents aren’t aware of that and even if they are they’re a little tricky to find so what this would do is several things.
The first is that we would now include school immunization rates on the school report card. So for schools in addition to things like their test scores and for high schools graduation rates it would also include their immunization rate.
The second thing is that the schools would be responsible for notifying parents at their schools both at the beginning of the school year and a month after exclusion day in mid-March about what the exemption rate is at the school, the non-immunization rate is at the school. Why, you may ask, is this important? We know that in order to have what we call “community immunity” to protect children who can’t be immunized from very serious infectious disease such as measles there has to be a certain level of immunity amongst the rest of the population. For things like measles that’s on the order of 94% of the population being immunized.
Unfortunately, in large parts of Oregon we’re seeing rates dipping down towards 92% or even lower….Schools would be required to notify families of what the immunization rate is and that could be done by paper, it could be done by electronic communication but it’s important to give parents information so that they can make an informed choice to either talk about special protections for their child at school or consider transferring for health reasons.”
Senator Steiner Hayward gave no other reasons in her testimony for why this information was so important for parents to the Senate Education Committee.
If this was the first and only time you’d heard of SB 895, it would be clear as day that the first portion of the bill had a sole purpose:
Reason #1 for “shame and blame”: Giving immunization information to the parents of medically fragile children (those who can’t receive vaccines) so they can make an informed choice.
March 11, 2015, The Statesman Journal (Reason #2)
Last month, after the demise of SB 442 — Senator Steiner Hayward’s mandatory vaccination bill — she spoke with The Statesman Journal about her future plans for vaccine legislation:
The policy would also require schools to make available their vaccine-exemption rates on their websites and report cards to prompt local public health conversations about vaccinations.
The article made no mention whatsoever of “medically fragile” children. “Prompt local health conversations about vaccinations”?
Reason #2 for “shame and blame”: Using the data to prompt school-level discussion about vaccinations. Or said differently, to encourage parents to figure out “who the hell isn’t vaccinating”!
If you can read Senator Steiner Hayward’s rationale for SB 895 — prompting “local” and “public” conversations about vaccines — for a decision that is a private family decision about private medical choices, perhaps you better understand why we call this a “shame and blame” bill.
Before moving on to reason #3 that Senator Steiner Hayward has given for her “shame and blame” bill, we’d like to introduce another member of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Sara Gelser.
We’re huge fans of Senator Gelser. She’s been a champion of children and particularly of children with disabilities.
We are parents of disabled children, so we agree with almost everything Senator Gelser does, but when it comes to SB 895, we think Senator Gelser is not taking the reality of what this bill will do seriously enough.
Consider the response that Senator Gelser provided to one of her constituents about SB 895 concerns:
I am much more comfortable with SB 895 than I was with SB 442 — particularly the element that allows for families to more easily access information about the vaccination rates at their public schools. That information is already public record, but making it easier for people who are interested seems like it makes sense. I’ve asked a lot of questions about the issues and am confident there is absolutely no way to get personal information from that data.
While a parent would be able to see that their school has a 92% vaccination rate, they would have no way of knowing any personal information about who the unvaccinated children might be. As a result, I do not see how there could be any shaming or bullying related to easier access to the information. Already, we provide easy access on district websites to expulsion rates, teacher education levels, student attendance data, and standardized test performance. This would appear in the same way.
We think Senator Gelser’s support for this bill is due to misinformation, which we will tackle in a moment, but we wanted you to see how legislators are rationalizing the merits of this legislation.
Also, with much respect to Senator Gelser, there is a huge difference between:
- Information that is “already public record” which means its accessible to someone who really needs it
- Placing information on a school report card and sending that information to parents twice a year. This implies that the information is important and actionable, and runs the huge risk of creating school-based witch hunts
Senator Gelser, we respectfully disagree that claiming the information is already public record removes your culpability in endorsing a bill that will lead to public shaming and blaming of both children and their parents. It is both unrealistic and naive to think the word won’t get out. We encourage parents to write to Senator Gelser directly and share your “shame and blame” fears and stories — we know she listens!
April 10, 2015, The Oregonian (Reason #3)
Last week’s article in the Oregonian after Senator Steiner Hayward’s testimony appears to be a bit of “A Few Good Men” moment where she finally gave us the truth that we just can’t handle — consider some of her quotes from this great article:
Steiner Hayward says she wants to continue shining a light on the state’s worst-in-the-nation numbers of immunized children…
Steiner Hayward says she hopes sharing the information will encourage more families to seek immunizations…
“I’ve done my homework on this issue,” Steiner Hayward said in an emotional interview Friday, making clear that crumbled political support — not the threats of violence she said her family endured — forced her to shelve Senate Bill 442. “The science is very strong. The fears people are expressing are not validated by science.”
Steiner Hayward said having tough and frank discussions about science is part of the idea. She said she was struck by hearing a friend who’s a teacher tell how fifth-graders said they wished they had been vaccinated because they were scared of getting sick.
“I understand parents want to protect their children,” Steiner Hayward said. “The challenges in interpreting which evidence is valid and which evidence isn’t suggest we’re struggling at some level with science literacy.”
Umm..what about those medically fragile kids? They are NOWHERE to be found in the article, and probably accurately so, because it’s our opinion that reason #3 from Senator Steiner Hayward is the real reason she’s pushing SB 895:
Reason #3 for “shame and blame”: People fearful of vaccines are wrong and dangerous and they need to be exposed within their own community so their behavior will change.
And, we want to be crystal clear about this:
SB 895 WILL generate public outings of WHO in a school setting has a vaccine exemption and the relative vaccination rates, because that’s the purpose of the bill. There are absolutely NO safeguards within the school setting for individual vaccine exemption information proposed in this or any other legislation
The arguments against SB 895:
- The bill will violate the privacy of individuals making individual and private medical decisions about vaccinations
As we hope we have shown you, the bill sponsor is interested in provoking a “public” conversation about a private matter. There are absolutely NO SAFEGUARDS in place regarding the confidentiality of vaccine exemption forms and data within any one school.
It is our estimate that in most schools somewhere between 3–5 administrators handle the exemption forms that show all this information.
Senator Gelser said:
“I’ve asked a lot of questions about the issues and am confident there is absolutely no way to get personal information from that data.”
Before even accounting for “front office information leaks” consider the following from a public health professional:
We have a rule in public health that we don’t report data that can be identifiable on a personal level. The general rule is that we don’t report a number if the numerator is five or smaller or if the denominator is 50 or smaller. Basically, if someone can look at a school and see that the student population is 300 and their nonvaccinating rate is .33%, that is information which, combined with other readily available information, will identify a particular student, and that is a violation of HIPPA privacy laws.
Part of the text of the bill states that the school district will provide information related to the number of children who are susceptible to a restricted disease. This also seems to be a HIPPA violation, as in the case where there is only one child in the school with that disease. The child becomes identifiable in violation of HIPPA rules.
Sharing this data is a minefield of confidentiality violation.
2. The actual vaccination rates in Oregon are high, exemption “rates” are largely misunderstood in Oregon
We’ve written so much about this topic that we’re not going to waste your time here doing it again, but please check our article about Oregon’s actual vaccination rates (high) and what exemption rates actually mean (a child could receive 22 of 23 required vaccines for school and still be considered “exempt”.) In the previous version of 895, only exemption data was being reported, now vaccination rates will be included, too, which is certainly an improvement.
3. The exemption information is already readily available.
If you had an immunocompromised child, would you find the time to look up vaccination data of student populations in your area? We would, and with Google we estimate it would take you 10–20 seconds to come upon some of the main resources out there for exemption data, like this color-coded map from the Oregonian:
4. The data the legislation is promoting is useless for a medically fragile child because the immunity of the community is unknown because it doesn’t include teachers!
The data SB 895 would mandate schools send to parents is useless for one obvious reason: It doesn’t include teachers and administrators, typically 10–20% of any school population. How is the parent of a medically fragile child supposed to measure herd immunity if he or she has no idea if the teacher is vaccinated?
Shifting arguments. Privacy violations. SB 895 is bad for Oregon. And, it’s based on a premise that’s not even true: Oregon’s immunization rates aren’t declining!
This article was written by several well-meaning Oregonians who are big fans of medical freedom and informed consent who apparently have nothing better to do than crunch numbers. We have nothing to gain or lose financially from the passage of this bill. We have proudly joined a movement of a few thousand Oregonians fighting this legislation, the organizing website can be found here: www.NoOnSB442.com. We have written a series of articles on this topic, in chronological order they include:
Part 2: Who cried wolf in Oregon
Part 4: Exemption-gate in Oregon?