Health Officials Concerned About Proposed Vaccine Exemption Rule Changes

Thursday, January 7th 2021, 6:21 pm

A proposed change to vaccine rules at the Oklahoma State Health Department has a group of doctors and healthcare workers speaking out.

The proposal would remove an education requirement for parents who want to refuse vaccines for their children.

The group of doctors said the changes would put kids at risk and they're calling for Oklahomans to get involved and speak out.

Oklahoma State Medical Association President Dr. George Monks was joined by other healthcare leaders to inform people about the changes.

Monks said this all started last year when the health department developed a rule that parents who want to opt out of routine vaccinations for their children because of personal or religious reasons could do so - but only after completing an education course about the risks and benefits of vaccines. Only then are they able to sign an exemption form.

Monks said the health department is getting rid of the education portion of that requirement.

He believes that is dangerous, especially now that a COVID-19 vaccine is available. He's encouraging Oklahomans to go on the health department's website and make a public comment.

"By removing the educational competent, Oklahoma is ensuring that most parents are receiving their vaccination facts from the internet, primary social media,” said Monks. “We cannot allow science to take a back seat in this conversation."

Jennifer Lepard, the Chief Administrative Officer for the state health department, issued the following statement about the proposed changes:

The recent rule change regarding vaccine exemption makes permanent an emergency rule that was in conflict with state statute. Parents or legal guardians seeking a vaccine exemption on behalf of their child are required to submit a written statement to the State Department of Health - they are not required to first watch an instructional presentation. The emergency rule became effective on Sept. 12, 2020, and is made permanent by today's update. OSDH supports vaccinations and encourages Oklahoma parents and legal guardians to vaccinate their children. The agency aims to increase the vaccination rate in Oklahoma by eliminating barriers to vaccination.