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City Club of Eugene: Is Oregon's Low Vaccination Rate a Public Health Crisis?

Recorded on: January 27, 2017

Air Date: January 30, 2017


  • Patrick F. Luedtke M.D., M.P.H., Senior Public Health Officer, Lane County
  • Tricia Schroffner, RN, NP, Nurse Practitioner in the School Based Health Centers at North Eugene and Churchill High Schools
  • Paul Slovic, Ph.D., President, Decision Research and Professor, Department of Psychology at UO

Coordinator: Joel Korin

Recently we have seen outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, diseases that could have been controlled by immunizations.  All states require immunizations for kids entering school, but most states allow exemptions for other than medical reasons.  Some states allow religious or philosophical exemptions.

Oregon has a non-vaccination rate that far surpasses the national average and has for many years.  Some parents refuse to vaccinate because they fear that vaccinations can cause more harm than good.  What danger does this pose for the students in the schools with non- vaccinated kids?  What risks are posed to the health of our society?   What is the concept of herd immunity and how does it affect our community?

Dr, Luedtke and Ms. Schroffner will examine the effect of low immunization rates in society in general and in the schools in particular.  You will also learn the effect the 2014 Oregon law requiring parents seeking a non-medical exemption be required to receive education on the risks and benefits of vaccinations.  You will hear about the February 15th exclusion date from schools for unvaccinated children and what can be done to avoid exclusion.  Dr. Slovic will discuss how people analyze risks and benefits in general and the perceived risk of vaccinating children in particular.   What do they fear and why?  Implications for information programs and education will also be addressed.

Patrick Luedtke, MD MPH has served as the Chief Medical Officer for Lane County since 2011.  He earned his medical degree at the Medical College of Wisconsin and his Masters in Public Health at the University of Utah, where he also taught. He is trained in Internal Medicine and Preventive (Occupational and Environmental) Medicine.  He is the author of peer-reviewed articles and chapters in medical texts.

Tricia Schroffner is a Family Nurse Practitioner and runs the My School’s Health Centers for North Eugene and Churchill High Schools.   She earned her BA degree from Notre Dame and her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Nursing from Columbia University.   She is responsible for administering vaccinations to children in the 4J school district, particularly those students with barriers to health care such as lack of medical insurance or a primary care provider.   She serves on the Rules Advisory Committee for the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Board of Nursing.

Paul Slovic is a professor in the Department of Psychology at UO and president of Decision Research in Eugene.  He earned his BA at Stanford and his MA and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. He is a member of numerous honorary and professional societies and organizations.  He has authored many books and articles, mainly dealing with risk and the perception of risk in decision-making.

copyright, KLCC 2017

Born and raised in Eugene, Anni started at KLCC in 2000 as a reporter and co-host of Northwest Passage. After graduating from the University of Oregon, Anni moved to New York City. She worked in education for several years before returning to her true love, journalism. Anni co-founded and co-hosted Dailysonic, a narrative-based news podcast. She interned at WNYC's On The Media, then becoming WNYC's assistant producer of Morning Edition.
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