“Measles Epidemic 2019”: A perspective from the front lines, by a Portland, Oregon mother of unvaccinated children.

My four sons, The Rubin Brothers Jazz Band.


Hello! To start let’s clarify what this post  is not about:

  • This is not an anti-vax post.
  • This is not a pro-vax post.
  • This is not a post about vaccines.
  • This is not a post about the measles.

“What is it then?” – you ask.

  • This is a post about misinformation and the news media frenzy over the measles outbreak in SW Washington (and now Oregon.)
  • This is a post about how the media uses us and preys on our fears.
  • This is a post about the need for truth in journalism and the need for readers to know the sources of the information they choose to consider in making decisions for their families.

And now… the post….


I am writing to dispel the concocted compound-myth that “there is a measles epidemic in a major metropolitan area (Portland, Oregon), where a majority/large percentage of children are unvaccinated”.

I just want to start by stating what should be obvious – especially these days:, don’t believe everything you read in the news. Don’t believe all of the “statistics” either – statistics can easily be manipulated to support one perspective or another depending on the scope or range or parameters for what numbers are broken out and presented/emphasized.

I live in Portland, Oregon. You have been hearing of our fair city daily in the news recently. My eldest son is 22 and has had all of his vaccines; my second son had all of his vaccines until he was Lead-poisoned at three years old; my two younger sons have had no vaccines. In the past we have qualified for the medical exemption for the schools, and our pediatrician has signed off on it — although frankly most years it has been easier to watch the video and fill out the form for the non-medical exemption than it is to make the time to go to the appointment with the doctor (I have a posse of disabled kids, after all) to get her to sign off on a medical exemption in person.

How the above is relevant: I just share this so you can see I am not on one “side” or the other of this vaccine debate, and I honestly have no “vaccine agenda” here. My concern is for the current biased/sensationalized/politicized media coverage of this outbreak, leading to (relative) mass hysteria, and (stupid) arguments/initiatives seeking stricter mandates for immunizations in Oregon. Are we that gullible?

Three Myths – Dispelled:

MYTH #1: There’s a measles outbreak (an epidemic!) in Portland!!!

  1. The recent uptick is primarily in WASHINGTON STATE, but every f”in news outlet seems to feel inclined to put “Portland, Oregon” in the first sentence or two of the article because – why?! – they assume the average American doesn’t know where Washington State is? I think not — I think it is because they want to fuel fear for the concern that this “extreme outbreak” is happening in a “major metropolitan area” that we all know from TV (Portlandia?Leverage? Grimm? The Flash?)
  2. To my knowledge – at the time of writing, this post there are only FOUR cases in Oregon. Four cases in the entire State. Period. The “alarming outbreak”, “epidemic” or “State of Emergency” [seriously?] is happening ACROSS THE RIVER, in ANOTHER STATE!
  3. On a more anecdotal front, I have 5,000 Facebook friends; about 25% of these friends are in Portland…I am probably therefore just a few degrees of separation from everyone in the city of Portland who is on Facebook (and a lot of people in Washington state too) — and not one single friend, acquaintance, friend-of-a-friend, cousin-of-a-friend or connection in any other way has posted that they or their kiddos have the measles. I don’t know a single person who has been impacted by this “terrifying epidemic”.
  4. Point number 3 above is even more interesting, given how many anti-vax and vaccine awareness-focused friends I do have (I think my friend base is probably pretty evenly split.) If Oregon-based anti-vaxxers were “one of the top 10 threats to public health in 2019” that the media has portrayed them as being, at least a few of my friends’ kids should have the measles by now.

Headline from Willamette Week (click image for article.)

Note: I am not saying that the number of cases that have been reported by the media is wrong, they are obviously keeping good track of it. I am just saying that it is not an “epidemic” in Portland, nor in Oregon (yet — and I don’t expect it will be, given our high vaccination rates here*) – and with the numbers reported (based on the reading I have done so far), it is not really an “epidemic” at all, just an outbreak focused primarily in a community (that has a low vaccination rate) in Washington State.

*see below [Myth #2]

Also for context (addressing whether or not this is an “epidemic”) – below is an image listing the reported new measles cases over the past decade or so.  2019 appears to be a typical year compared to other recent years – hardly an “epidemic” (historically measles always occurs in geographic clusters like this):

I put the above data in a bar-graph to make it a little easier to read:Another example of the news coverage headlines is below:



MYTH #2: “No one in Oregon vaccinates their children —it’s an anti-vax hot spot!”

  • When this stuff first started going viral in the news, I looked up the vaccination rates for the schools in our neighborhood (which is “close-in SE Portland” — just a 10 or 20 minute bike-ride to downtown). You can see the screenshots from this inquiry (as well as my original Facebook post) below.
  • My children attend two of the neighborhood schools. In each of these schools the MMR vaccine rates are in the range of 96-98% vaccinated. That vaccination rate is among the highest in the country (for percentage of vaccinated students in schools) and actually as much as 7% higher than the national average.

Here’s a quote from a story that listed the national average
(click the quote to read the original article):


Click the image below to see my original post on Facebook and share it if you like:



Below are close ups of the screenshots from this Facebook post. And here’s the link from the post for folks to look up vaccination rates in their Oregon schools.

Charlie’s Elementary School: MMR = 96-98%


Avi’s Middle School: MMR = 97 – 98%

The private Catholic school next door to our house: MMR = 93%
[Still higher than the national average!]

Multnomah County: MMR = 95-97%
[also higher than the national average!]


MYTH #3: “Oregon children are going to be kicked out of school on February 20th if they don’t get vaccinated”.

Willamette Week News Story:

  • The local paper, Willamette Week, popularized this myth with a sensational headline (above)…. but below is a screenshot of a notice we got in our school newsletter today (2/8/2019) – it was this notice that prompted me to write this blog post today.
  • They are not booting kids out of school for not vaccinating (as the headline implies). Specifically they aren’t telling 5,000 parents they have to vaccinate their kids in the next two weeks or they cannot attend school. Nope.
  • The notice from the county (via the school newsletter today) is just your normal perfunctory annual system check to make sure those who have a medical or non-medical exemption in place have renewed their paperwork, and that those who vaccinate have their vaccinations up to date. No “new mandatory vaccine policy”.

The truth (memo from my kids’ school today):


I think that should suffice to dispel some of the core myths that have led to this hysteria. Again to summarize the facts:

  • The “epidemic” is not in Portland.
  • Based on annual numbers of cases of measles historically over the past 25 years in the United States, it is questionable if this should be referred to as an epidemic at all.
  • The vast majority of Portland children are vaccinated against MMR, at a greater rate than the national average.  
  • Portland families can still choose the non-medical exemption option as they have been able to do for a while now.

If the core “facts” of what is being reported are fundamentally wrong – where do you think the other “facts” lie on the spectrum?

I long for a simpler time — when journalism was (comparatively) honest – or at-least largely fact-based (and well researched), and not entirely given over to sensational, tabloid-style headlines, driven exclusively by the goal of selling the maximum number of copies for their bottom line [or to serve the interests of their advertisers or corporate conglomerate or political ideologue owners].

To read more about my perspective on vaccinations in general, click here.

As always please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for reading and for following my blog (and for sharing my posts!)

Tamara Rubin
#LeadSafeMama
Mother of Lead Poisoned Children

2 Responses to “Measles Epidemic 2019”: A perspective from the front lines, by a Portland, Oregon mother of unvaccinated children.

  1. Bmommy February 10, 2019 at 11:12 pm #

    Thank you great article & commentary regarding the sensational new that the media continues to spread. Sadly this is exactly what happened in California while they were trying to pass SB277 that eliminated the personal belief exemption for our state. The whole infamous Disneyland Measles hysteria that helped get this horrible law passed that violated not only children’s rights but those of their parent to make the best decision possible when when it comes to their individual health. Most of those who contracted measles during that time were partially for fully vaccinated for MMR & many were not even children & I don’t believe anyone was hospitalized. California was also highly vaccinated. Watch out for the restrictive laws coming down the pipeline, I know they are already working on them in WA.

    • Tamara February 11, 2019 at 1:11 am #

      Thank you for commenting!

      T

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