The vaccine scene in Ashland

As we reach the anniversary of lockdown, many are anxiously awaiting the day they can receive the coronavirus vaccine. The days of social distancing, sanitizing, and masking, becoming a thing of the past, are all we hope for. While more and more in our community graciously accept the vaccine, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter. But could Ashland’s history of anti-vaxxers potentially disrupt our communities’ strive towards herd immunity?  

Ashland, Oregon, has a low vaccination rate. According to the Oregon Health Authority, Ashland High School students are in the most vulnerable category. With less than 80% of our students vaccinated, those relying on herd immunity are at risk. It is no secret that Ashland houses a large population of anti-vaxxers, leaving students unvaccinated against preventable illnesses for nonmedical reasons. At AHS, the Oregon Health Authority reports that 28% of Ashland High students have received a nonmedical exemption to any vaccines. It also notes that, for nonmedical reasons, 22% of students have not received the MMR2 vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. The National Library of Medicine states that approximately 80% of the population requires an immunization to reach herd immunity. However, only 71% of the students at Ashland High School are fully vaccinated. This jarring gap leaves space for once eliminated diseases, like polio, to resurface into the community.  

These statistics could hint towards a potential aversion to getting one of the three vaccines currently authorized by the FDA. From the perspective of our current students’ records, parents have failed to vaccinate in large enough amounts to reach heard immunity in most diseases. With schools quickly switching over to hybrid, will at least 80% of our communities’ parents vaccinate their children against COVID-19? Many hope that the pandemic has changed some minds about how necessary vaccines are to our overall safety. 

 Experiencing a deadly and global pandemic has the power to shift perspectives. Sierra Dell, a resident of Ashland, Or, tells the Daily Beast that the pandemic gave her new insight into vaccines’ privilege. Dell explains how in her opinion, she feels that the Covid-19 vaccine is necessary, “There are so many people dying. And it’s real. I choose not to vaccinate at all, in any other way, but this one I’m going for. Because I owe it to society.” After experiencing a deadly disease outbreak firsthand, many fear dying from an illness like they hadn’t before. Much like Dell, watching the impacts of other’s lack of responsibility is giving people a sense of duty towards vaccinating themselves.  

However, some still feel hesitant about it. With nonmedical vaccination exemptions still allowed in the Ashland School District, how can we control covid outbreaks in the future? Once the vaccine is available for all ages, will AHS reach herd immunity without a mandate?