Lawmaker wants to end certain vaccine exemptions

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OKLAHOMA — Battle lines are being drawn over a lawmaker’s proposal to vaccinate as many Oklahoma school kids as possible.

Senator Ervin Yen wants to get rid of exemptions that allow public and private school kids to skip out on certain vaccinations.

But one group is firing back, arguing that it shouldn’t be up to the government.

Right now, Oklahoma law allows parents to opt-out of vaccinations for their children for three reasons: medical, personal reason, or religious beliefs.

The senate bill being proposed would take two of those off the table.

Senate Bill 830 would cancel out personal objections and religious exemptions.

According to the Oklahoma  State Department of Health, the number parents saying ‘no’ to vaccines is on the rise.

“If our numbers of people not getting vaccinated continue to rise, opting out to get their children vaccines…as these diseases resurge across the United States, these kids are going to be at greater risk of contracting the disease,” said Tiffany Elmore.

Elmore is the Director of Clinical Service for the Oklahoma County Health Department. She says statewide exemption level is 1.5 percent, but she says any number is a problem.

“When you opt out, we are breaking that herd immunity. Where we have people who are a defensive line that have received the immunizations and the vaccines, and are helping protect the babies that are too little to get it, or any age of people with immune problems, or those unable to get it for medical reasons,” said Elmore.

Senator Yen’s bill would only allow exemptions for medical reasons. The bill has some support, but also a lot of opposition.

Liza Greve is co-chair of the group ‘Oklahomans For Vaccine Choice.’

“We are not an anti-vaccine group. We are about parent rights and doing their diligence,” said Greve.

She says getting rid of exemptions creates a slippery slope.

“We are concerned about government overreach. The Oklahoma Bill of Rights that was signed and 2014 guarantees that parents have the right to make vaccine decisions for their child,” she said.

And Greve says those rights would be taken away with no recourse should something go wrong.

“In 1986, a liability was removed from manufacturers. In other words, you cannot sue a manufacturer if something were to happen to your child, either injury or death,” she said.

If Senate Bill 830 gets through committee, it could be up for debate when the legislative session starts in February.

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