Exclusion Day brings reminder of exemption rule change

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- It's Exclusion Day today.

What does that mean? If your child isn't current on vaccinations, they may have been held out of school, unless they are exempt.

The exemptions are going to be a bit different starting next month.

Officials say vaccines have become more controversial in recent years, Melinda Tsuchiya, a pediatric practitioner at Umpqua Community Health Center, says the success of vaccination programs could be the cause. "Vaccines have become a victim of their own success," she said.

As parents scrambled to have their kids meet the Exclusion Day deadline, Tsuchiya says she continues to meet parents who are hesitant to have their kids immunized. "The most important thing is to protect your child from disease," she said.

As a doctor, she says she does her best to explain the science of it.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, the state has seen an increase in parents claiming religious exemption to getting their kids vaccinated, but starting on March 1, there's a new law taking effect when it comes to opting out.

Parents will still be able to refuse vaccinations for their children due to religious and philosophical beliefs, but the religious exemption will now be known as a Non-Medical Exemption. "Changing the process for claiming a non-medical exemption is something that Washington did a couple years ago, and they did see a decrease in the number of parents who were choosing a non-medical exemption for their children," said Stacy De Assis Matthews from the Oregon Immunization Program.

Matthews says the decrease in Washington was considered by legislators when it came to the change in Oregon.

Parents who choose the non-medical exemption are now required to get a vaccine exemption certificate from a doctor or watch an online video by the state run Oregon Health Authority.