Oklahoma requires vaccinations before children can attend any school with some exemptions, but a state senator wants to stop vaccination requirements altogether.
District 7 State Sen Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, filed Senate Bill 350 to repeal Oklahoma’s School Vaccination Laws and prohibit vaccination requirements as a condition of admittance to any school.
“As a parent, you or I is responsible for our child’s health, not necessarily the school,” Hamilton said. “If the school wants to offer those things, I think that’s fantastic. If the school wants to mandate those things, then that’s not.”
Oklahoma statute 70 O.S. 1210.191 requires children 2 months and older to present an immunization record for nine diseases — including measles, polio, chickenpox and others — or an exemption to attend child care or school.
Vaccinations contain an antigen that will not cause a disease but trigger immune response to a pathogen within the body, according to the World Health Organization. No single vaccination nor herd immunity provides 100% protection, but vaccinations drastically improve immunity to potentially life-threatening diseases, according to the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hamilton said the potential of a COVID-19 vaccination being required in the future further motivated him to file the bill and he didn’t want to issue an opinion on whether vaccinations work.
“My opinion on whether or not vaccines are good or bad I think is irrelevant,” said Hamilton, who said he previously received various vaccinations. “That’s a decision that I think each of us is responsible to come up with after having done our research. I’m not against vaccines, per se, but I’m not an enthusiastic proponent thereof either.”
Oklahoma law allows exemptions to school vaccination requirements by presenting:
• a certificate of a licensed physician stating a child’s physical condition is such that immunization would be life-threatening
• a written statement by the parent, guardian or legal custodian of the child objecting to immunization of the child, whereupon the child shall be exempt from the immunization law
Oklahoma is one of 15 states to allow personal reasons as an immunization exemption.
Gov. Kevin Stitt allowed the Oklahoma State Department of Health to add new rules requiring anyone seeking a religious or personal exemption to complete an approved brief educational presentation on vaccinations from a local county health department.
Hamilton said he believes parents should make the decision whether to have their children vaccinated and believes parents and students are coerced into getting vaccinations under current laws.
“I don’t like to see people coerced or pigeon-holed into something that violates their conscience,” Hamilton said. “I guess the big thing is that we’re responsible for our own health care and I don’t want to take something that I don’t feel right about taking, whatever that is.”
Hamilton also filed S.B. 477 to similarly prohibit higher education from requiring vaccinations before admitting students.
The bill aims to eliminate vaccination requirements for students at public or private postsecondary education institutions, specifically the vaccination against meningococcal disease, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella.
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