High rate of nonvaccination spurs meeting

Ashland's high number of unvaccinated students has prompted public health officials to hold a meeting with parents today 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.

"Our goal is to try and give people the information they need to hopefully improve the immunization status of the community at large," he said. "And for those that choose not to immunize, we'd like them to have a clear picture of how they can protect themselves and the community."

Today's meeting will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Helman library, 705 Helman St. Free child care will be provided.

Shames will answer questions at the meeting, alongside Dr. Bonnie Nedrow, a naturopathic physician, and Bill Shepherd, Jackson County's program manager for public health.

The three form the Ashland Immunization Outreach Team, which aims to hold meetings at all of the city's public schools in the coming months.

In 2010, 25 percent of public and private school students didn't get all of their vaccines, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

"It's a phenomenon that's been going on for years," Shames said.

Parents can sign a religious exemption form to opt their children out of otherwise required immunizations.

Instead of giving a presentation at today's meeting, Shames plans to have a discussion with parents, he said.

"It's going to be a time to share information and hear from the public about what are their concerns and what do they feel like they still need to know?" he said.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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