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Frontline excerpt: Ashland Oregon

Posted Apr 21 2010 7:31pm

The PBS show Frontline has an upcoming episode called “The Vaccine War”. They recently posted a video excerpt of the episode. In this segment they follow a public health worker in Ashland Oregon, a community with one of the highest vaccine refusal rates in the US.

So, how is that vaccine refusal working out in Ashland? That’s in Jackson County, Oregon. I’m not alone in asking that question. One of the founders of Generation Rescue asked the same question recently

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 15 percent of children in Jackson County, Ore., are unvaccinated, Handley said. Someone needs to find out how these kids look comparatively. “It’s in the pockets of the unvaccinated kids where the first truths may be found,” he said.

Ashland appears to have an even higher vaccine refusal rate than the rest of Jacknson County. From the Frontline press release:

With an estimated quarter of the town’s children entering kindergarten not fully immunized, Ashland is one of the least vaccinated places in America.

So, Jackson County has a refusal rate of about 15% and Ashland about 25%. Let’s see what the Ashland City Council has to say. Here is a proclamation from the City of Ashland proclaiming Autism Awareness month



• Autism is a complex neurobiological condition that appears at birth or typically before age three and occurs in one out of every 150 births each year in the United States.
• Autism affects the areas in the brain that regulate pragmatics of speech and perceptions of others, affecting how people with autism assimilate and express verbal and non-verbal communication, and sensory processing.
• Oregon has one of the highest rates of autism in the United States, with the Oregon Department of Education reporting 1 in 98 students on the autism spectrum, and in Ashland, 1.1 percent of students have been diagnosed which is the highest rate in Jackson County.
• While there is no precisely identified cause and cure for autism, Autism Centers of Excellence and institutions for education such as Oregon Health & Science University, and the Southern Oregon University Masters in Special Education program offer hope for recovery, and treatments to lead a rich and fulfilling life.
• Early Intervention services such as those provided by Asante Early Childhood Development can alter the course for children living with autism and their families in their ability to interact and communicate not only wants and needs, but dreams and aspirations.
• Adults living with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome can find a warm and welcoming home and community in Ashland.

NOW THEREFORE, the City Council and Mayor, on behalf of the citizens of Ashland, hereby proclaim the month of April 2008 as:


and call upon the citizens of the City of Ashland to observe the month by learning about people with autism, their strengths, abilities, and the programs which serve their needs.

Dated this 4th day of March, 2008.

Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
John W. Morrison, Mayor

Keep in mind that the above proclamation involves educational data, which are not the same as real autism prevalence. That is especially problematic in Oregon, which has a very vague criterion for an educational diagnosis . But, that said, Ashland (with a vaccine refusal rate of 25%) had 1.1% of their students with educational diagnoses of autism, the highest in Jackson County and higher than the Statewide average.

Again, education data are fairly weak to begin with, and Oregon has a very loose definition of “autism”. But, that said, there isn’t evidence in the educational data that vaccine refusal is helping Ashland avoid autism.
In other words it looks like vaccine refusal is not protecting Ashland from autism.

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<a href="">Frontline excerpt: Ashland Oregon</a>

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