OKLAHOMA CITY — Supporters of mandatory vaccinations on Wednesday rallied at the Capitol in support of a measure to remove exemptions from state law.
They also opposed two measures they said would result in fewer children getting immunizations.
An estimated 50 people attended the event and met with lawmakers.
They support Senate Bill 83, by Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, that would allow a child to be exempt from school-required vaccinations only if a doctor said the child’s physical condition is such that immunization would endanger his or her life or health.
Under current law, exemption is allowed if a parent, guardian or legal custodian submits a written objection to immunization of the child.
Yen, a medical doctor, thanked those in attendance, saying he has been somewhat by himself on the issue during the last two legislative sessions.
Elizabeth Carroll of Tulsa was among those attending the rally.
“It’s a question of putting children at risk for diseases that should no longer be an issue, such as whooping cough, measles and some of these illnesses that in previous generations had come to a halt and are now starting to come back because people have stopped vaccinating their children,” Carroll said.
Critics of mandatory vaccinations say it is up to the parent, not the government, to decide.
“Well, I would say their parents’ choice not to vaccinate ends at the point where it puts other children at risk,” Carroll said.
Dr. Eve Switzer, a pediatrician in Enid, said the choice not to vaccinate has consequences, such as not being allowed to attend public school.
The group that organized the rally, Vaccinate Oklahoma, opposes Senate Bills 177 and 808, both by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, which they say would impede the vaccination process with redundant regulatory mandates. SB 177 would require schools that send out notification of the mandatory vaccinations to also include information about the exemptions.
Dahm said the notification should provide both sides of the equation.
SB 808, dubbed the “Parental Rights Immunization Act,” would require additional information be provided to parents about vaccinations.
“If we are going to mandate something, we should have informed consent and provide the information,” Dahm said.
Yen said doctors already provide informed consent and that some of the information required by the measure could be confusing to parents.
Dr. Thomas Kuhls, a Norman pediatrician and co-founder of Vaccinate Oklahoma, said, “If parents want to not immunize their children, that is their right. They have the ability to home school.”
He added that there is a lot of evidence that shows there is no link between vaccinations and autism.
“That is firm science,” Kuhls said.
Last week, critics of mandatory vaccinations rallied at the Capitol to oppose Yen’s bill and support the measures brought by Dahm. Liza Greve, president of Oklahomans for Vaccine and Health Choice, said about 300 people attended that rally.