Oklahoma’s percentage of vaccinated children falls beneath the national average.
Following a troubling national trend, more Oklahoma parents are seeking vaccine exemptions for their children. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observed that the vaccine exemption rate increased by 0.3 percent between the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years.
The CDC reported, “2.1 percent of Oklahoma public school students and 5.6 percent of private school students claimed at least one kind of exemption, creating a combined estimated exemption rate of 2.2 percent across the state.”
The survey also found that Oklahoma’s 92.6 percent vaccination “for measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations lags behind the national average of 94.3 percent.”
In a news release, Dr. Kristy Bradley, the state’s epidemiologist, said, “While our immunization efforts statewide are commendable, it is obvious that we still have work to do to reach the nationwide target of 95 percent coverage.”
According to the Tulsa World, Lori Linstead, the director of the immunization service for Oklahoma’s Health Department, argued, “Of course we want adolescents to be vaccinated because research tells us that it protects people against vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Researchers at the CDC report that a parent’s hesitancy in giving their child a vaccine and the ease of obtaining an exemption may be what is contributing to the increase of unvaccinated children.
Oklahoma’s certificate of exemption holds three categories: medical, religious or personal. A religious objection requires the parent to verify that vaccination goes against the teachings of the named religion. A personal objection asks for a summary of why a vaccine goes against one’s beliefs. For a medical objection, a licensed physician must provide a certificate stating that the physical condition of a child would be endangered by immunization. A child’s health may be threatened by the possibility of a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component, a previously weakened immune system or a history of an adverse event related to vaccination.
A target vaccination percentage determines herd immunity, which is the concept that one unvaccinated person will be protected from disease if they are surrounded by others who are immunized.
The Tulsa World writes, “Oklahoma’s 92.6 percent of children with vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella falls a few points below the rate for herd immunity.”
“Unless we can assure that children entering school are protected through immunization, we are continuing to be at the risk of outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases,” Bradley said.