Ashland immunization

Caring about my community’s children — immunization information specific to Ashland Oregon.

Ashland Oregon reportedly has the highest kindergarten non-immunization rate in the state and one of the highest in the U.S..  Pockets of low immunization rates leave our children and community especially vulnerable to vaccine preventable disease outbreaks.  No vaccine is 100% protective, and so even vaccinated people are at risk when community immunity (or “herd immunity”) weakens.

Vaccine wariness, hesitancy, and refusal run relatively high here in Ashland.  We are home to certain authors and healthcare providers who encourage vaccination refusal, delay, or “selective vaccination” (which causes immunity coverage gaps) — often in the name of compelling concepts such as natural parenting, free choice, or informed consent.

In this culture of vaccine fear, it can be hard for many of my fellow Ashland parents to cut through the misinformation — the cherry-picked, weak, unsubstantiated studies and the fear-mongering — in order to make a truly informed, science-based decision. On this page, I introduce and link to some media reports about our community’s special issues (not necessarily up-to-date or complete).


Ashland Oregon in the media re: immunizations

“Guest Opinion: ‘Vaxxed’ screening is irresponsible”

Ashland Daily Tidings and Medford Mail Tribune
by Dr. Jim Shames (Jackson County Public Health Medical Director, and signed by many trusted local medical professionals)
May 20, 2016


“. . .But when parents, frightened by Andrew Wakefield’s thoroughly discredited “research” that the measles vaccine causes autism, started to refuse to vaccinate their children, measles has been returning with a vengeance. Not uniformly across America, but primarily in the communities where such beliefs are endemic. Communities like Ashland. . . .

“. . .The rate of measles vaccination in Ashland public schools ranges from 56 percent to 86 percent. It takes a rate of 93 percent or more to prevent measles from spreading in any particular institution. Ashland is a community ripe for a measles outbreak. . . .

“. . .That brings me to the decision by Varsity Theaters to bring the movie “Vaxxed” to Ashland. It apparently glorifies the discredited Mr. Wakefield (he was a doctor before he had his license taken away), and uses scary music and disturbing graphics to suggest that unscrupulous government and industry types are withholding the truth from us all, that the MMR vaccine causes autism. This supposed link has been debunked over and over and over again by the most rigorous of researchers. Not to believe the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and countless others is to accept a gigantic level of conspiracy to delude the public. Some of us have worked with the CDC and WHO and can assure you they are dedicated public servants whose motivation is to seek the truth, not to get rich and deceive all of us.

“. . .To bring this inflammatory film into our community and legitimize the falsehood that MMR vaccine causes autism is nothing short of irresponsible. Rather than peddling thoroughly discredited information to vulnerable parents, we should be strengthening public health, promoting this effective vaccine and reducing the risk to children and the immune-compromised.” . . .

Read the article here, or here.  

“Ground zero of the anti-vaccine movement in the U.S.”

Reuters Video
February 12, 2015

As a measles outbreak spreads across the U.S., Reuters correspondent Sharon Bernstein traveled to Ashland, Oregon, where nearly a quarter of kindergarten children started the year without any vaccinations – a problem stumping health officials.

Watch the video.

“Softer, less strident outreach may help calm U.S. vaccine skeptics”

by Sharon Bernstein
February 11, 2015

When Melissa Orion’s unvaccinated baby contracted whooping cough, she was grateful for modern medicine – its emergency rooms and even its antibiotics. But the Ashland, Oregon, mom did not question her decision not to inoculate her child, and still does not, despite the outbreak of measles in some 20 U.S. states, linked to California’s Disneyland park, that has infected more than 120 people.

“I put him on antibiotics,” the 31-year-old artist said. “But I felt the risk of vaccine was worse.”

College-educated, middle-class and white, Orion is like many in this quaint city of 21,000 just north of the California border who have declined to vaccinate their children.” . . .

Read the article.

“Several dozen kids in Ashland have come down with chickenpox”

The Oregonian/OregonLive
by Lynne Terry
January 22, 2015

“Authorities have been battling an outbreak of chickenpox in Ashland, which has one of the highest rates of unimmunized children in the country.

Dr. Jim Shames, medical director of Jackson County, said that more than 30 children in the Ashland School District have come down with the highly contagious disease since October. There have also been a few cases elsewhere in the county.

Most of the cases involved unvaccinated children passing it on to others, he said. When the outbreak started, about 75 percent of the children in the Ashland School District were immunized. That’s too small of a percentage to prevent the virus from marching through the community.”…
Read the rest of the story.

“The vaccination deniers”

The Ashland Daily Tidings – OUR VIEW
December 14, 2014

Ashland is a highly educated community with a long and admirable record of being progressive. That makes its occasional anti-science approach to issues all the more puzzling — and sometimes infuriating, as in the case of the community’s low vaccination rates, which put children at risk.

Jackson County health officials have issued a warning that incidents of chicken pox and pertussis (whooping cough) are on the rise in the county, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates. Ashland leads the list in that category, hardly something you’d want to put on a banner at the the entrance to town: “Welcome to Ashland. We don’t vaccinate our kids.”

The numbers are stark: In Medford, 95 percent of school children are vaccinated; in Eagle Point nearly 98 percent. Ashland’s most recent numbers: 70 percent.
There is an Ashland number that leads the county: 20, the number of chicken pox cases among students. There are also two reported cases of pertussis in Ashland.. . .
Read the rest of the Tidings’ opinion.

“Whooping Cough alert for Ashland Middle School”

Rogue Valley Community Press – press release from Jackson County Health Department
May 13, 2014

“The Jackson County Health Department is alerting Ashland residents that students from Ashland Middle School have been diagnosed with Pertussis. Pertussis, also called “Whooping Cough”, is a disease caused by a bacteria and is easily spread from person to person. It can cause serious complications, especially for infants, pregnant women in their third trimester, and people with compromised immune systems.”…
Read the rest of the press release.

“Gently Approaching Vaccination Resistance”

JPR Radio – The Jefferson Exchange
by Geoffrey Riley and Charlotte Duren
October 25, 2013

“Vaccine discussion (and disagreement): Dr. Stephen Wells, Dr. Bonnie Nedrow and Jennifer Margulis” [local family practice MD, Naturopath, and author, in that order].

“Vaccines provide resistance to disease, but concerns about side effects provide resistance to the vaccines. And the concerns are especially pronounced in Ashland, which has one of the highest vaccine avoidance rates in the country.”…
Listen to the program.

“ACTS MATTER – Get the shot…or not?”

February 14, 2012
Ashland Daily Tidings

Even though vaccinations are required for children attending public and private schools, preschools, childcare facilities and Head Start programs in Oregon, the issue of immunizing youngsters to prevent diseases remains controversial.

Ashland has the highest noncompliance rate in the state, with up to 25 percent of schoolchildren not having some or all required immunizations.
Read the entire article

“Poxsicle Parties – Ashland parents hold ‘pox parties’ to give children natural immunity from chicken pox; health officials say vaccine is safer, avoids suffering”

Daily Tidings
by Angela Decker
February 13, 2012

In a town known for having the highest nonvaccination rate in the state, a case of the chicken pox can be cause for a party. Ashland parents who are concerned about vaccine safety are turning to pox parties to deliberately expose their children to the virus in hopes they will acquire immunity naturally.

Pox parties are advertised through word of mouth, invitation-only Facebook groups and message boards. Parents on the local email group Mamas Medicine Wheel recently offered to host and searched for someone to host a chicken pox party.
Read the entire article

“Commissioners approve study on reluctance to vaccinate”

The Medford Mail Tribune
December 28, 2011

The Southern Oregon University Research Center will conduct a study to find out why Ashland parents are reluctant to vaccinate their children for school.

The Jackson County Commissioners gave the go-ahead to partner with SOU on the $10,000 endeavor at their weekly public meeting this morning at the Jackson County auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

SOU will conduct interviews with Ashland parents and compile data. The study is to be finished no later than June 30, 2013.

Jackson County Health and Human Services will pay for the study out of its budget.

“I think this’ll give us a lot of valuable information,” said commissioner John Rachor.
Read the entire article

“Ashland’s low vaccination rate may be focus of study”

By Ryan Pfeil
Mail Tribune
December 28, 2011

Southern Oregon University and Jackson County health officials hope to join forces on a $10,000 study designed to find out why Ashland parents are so reluctant to vaccinate their children.

“It’s a big concern,” said SOU professor Jon Lange, who was part of an effort to provide more education to parents on children’s vaccinations during the 2010-11 school year.

In 2010, 25 percent of Ashland students didn’t get all their vaccines, more than double the percentage in 2001. Of the 3,117 students enrolled in public and private schools, 777 claimed the religious exemption — the highest rate in the state.

Jackson County commissioners will decide whether to approve the study at 9:30 a.m. today in their offices at 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford. Funds will come from the Health and Human Services budget.

The SOU Research Center will use the money to conduct interviews with parents, compile the data and file the finished study by June 30, 2013.
Read the entire article

“Low vaccination rate spurs meeting”

Mail Tribune
by Hannah Guzik
April 19, 2011

ASHLAND — “The city’s high number of unvaccinated students has prompted public health officials to hold a meeting with parents tonight at Helman Elementary School.

The forum is the first in a series designed to reach out to parents who have questions about immunizations and their possible risks, said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County’s medical director for health and human services.”…
Read the entire article

“Why Aren’t Parents Vaccinating Their Children?”

By Gretchen Gavett, PBS Frontline
November 28, 2011

Excerpt:  ..”The AP found that vaccine exemptions have risen slightly in about half of all U.S. states. The highest rates of exemption are in the West and Midwest, including the town of Ashland, Ore., which is featured in both their reporting and our 2010 film The Vaccine War.”

Read the entire article

“Immunization rates down at district schools – More parents in Ashland have decided not to vaccinate their children this year”

By Hannah Guzik
Ashland Daily Tidings, February 20, 2010

“Ashland School District’s immunization rate decreased this year, after more parents opted to exempt their children from standard vaccinations.

About 24 percent of the district’s students are exempt from one or more immunizations this year, an increase of 2 percentage points over last year.

“It concerns me that we’re letting our guard down and that none of these diseases are absent,” said Dr. Jim Shames, medical director for Jackson County Health and Human Services. “Chances are, if we have enough unimmunized kids, the diseases could spread in our community.”…
Read the entire article

“Oregon’s low vaccination rate causes health concerns”

By Kelly Yan, The Oregonian, August 27, 2008

“Vaccine skeptics have plenty of company in Ashland.

There, doubts about the necessity and safety of immunizations are as much a part of the community as its embrace of naturopathic medicine, environmental ethos and counterculture roots.

The university town, and smaller enclaves of Jackson and Josephine counties, are among pockets in Oregon where parents increasingly seek waivers from some or all of the vaccinations required for schoolchildren.

Twenty-five percent of Ashland kindergartners were exempted from at least one vaccine last year. That dwarfs the average statewide exemption rate of 3.8 percent, a rate that’s also inching up.

Like-minded people tend to cluster, with the political and social implications of that the subject of intense debate. But health officials say our sorting might have another consequence — for public health.”…
Read the entire article

Feeling proud, and fortunate: The CDC honored one of our own from Ashland.

James G. Shames, MD
Family Practice Physician and County Health Officer
Jackson County Health Department
Medford, OR

Nestled in the idyllic hills near Medford, Oregon, where Dr. James Shames practices is a community of parents and activists who, because of religious and/or personal reasons, choose not to vaccinate their children. This group of vaccine-refusers can be found in Ashland where their opposition to vaccination has gained national attention. Dr. Shames has been at the forefront of the local Oregon campaign to educate them and other parents about the critical importance of vaccinating children against the 14 potentially deadly but vaccine-preventable diseases before the age of two years.

In his role as county health officer, Dr. Shames uses innovative techniques to build partnerships and implement change through multiple sectors to bring about improved immunization coverage in his area. For example, he organized an immunization-oriented workgroup for local health care providers, business leaders and residents. As a family practice physician, Dr. Shames makes it his goal to speak with parents one-on-one about the importance and safety of vaccination for their children.

Dr. Shames has also led community and school-staff educational meetings to inform parents, teachers, and school administrators on vaccine safety. And, not only has he promoted the Vaccines for Children program throughout his area, he has also developed a vaccine safety course that clinicians can take for certification credits.

But his work does not stop at Oregon’s borders. Dr. Shames has served as a national spokesperson promoting the safety of vaccination, and was interviewed on the PBS news program, Frontline. He also writes editorials and has been the subject matter expert for radio outlets seeking feedback on Oregon’s immunization controversy. For his unrelenting commitment to educate broadly on the importance of childhood immunization, Dr. Shames is the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion for Oregon.