OKLAHOMA CITY – A battle was brewing at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Monday.
Several parents gathered at the Capitol to fight against a proposed bill that would remove two exemptions from the state’s vaccination law.
“Where there is a risk there must be a choice!”
It’s a chant to prevent change.
“Who calls the shots? Parents call the shots!” Protesters yelled in unison.
“We could not believe that taking away our choice would even be an option in the area of vaccines,” said Liza Greve, Oklahomans for Vaccine and Health Choice.
The rally put on by Oklahomans for Vaccine and Health Choice is part of a push to stop a bill written by Sen. Ervin Yen.
For many here, the fight is personal. Sydney Robb is here with her mother.
“I think it should be up to the parents, definitely,” she said.
When she was just 3-years-old, she had a reaction to a vaccine.
“It was really scary. She couldn’t walk for three days,” said her mother.
Right now, Oklahoma law requires vaccinations for children to go to school, but allows exemptions for medical, religious, and personal reasons. Sen.Yen’s bill would get rid of the religious and personal exemptions.
“The exemption rate in Oklahoma has doubled in the last 10 years, that is the wrong way to move. It should be decreasing,” said Sen. Yen.
The increase he is says is contributing to a rise in diseases already eradicated, such as measles and whooping-cough.
“Pertussis is a great example of this. A newborn baby cannot be vaccinated for this, so before that, if it’s exposed, could get it and die,” he said.
Those who oppose the bill say it violates parents’ rights.
“Even if we do not agree on whether to fully vaccinate, delay or opt out or not vaccinate at all, we can agree it’s a parent’s right to choose,” said Greve.
Sen. Yen agrees parents’ rights are being stepped on…but he says his bill isn’t the cause.
“What about the rights of parents to send their child to school that has an immune disease? What about their rights to have that kid go to school and not be exposed to a highly contagious disease that could kill them? What about those parents’ rights?” said Yen.
Yen says this is a matter of public safety and that he will continue to push his plan or some version of it.