Legislators should always be on the lookout for bills that protect our children.
Senate Bill 83 is one of those bills. Or at least it was.
Some might refer to the bill as the vaccination bill. Actually, it’s the “How to get out of vaccinating bill.”
Oklahoma’s vaccination rate has been declining in recent years. That means Oklahomans, and especially the children, are more likely to contract a serious disease.
So Senator Ervin Yen authored a bill to remove non-medical exemptions to the vaccines mandated for school children (not all children).
In other words, if a child is to be in close proximity to perhaps hundreds of other children, he or she should be immunized against disease to protect both that child and those he or she will come in contact with.
There are those who claim that vaccinations are unsafe, or that they cause autism.
A little while back President Trump made a comment, questioning the safety of vaccinations.
In response he received a letter from a few organizations telling him that they wanted to “express our unequivocal support for the safety of vaccines,” and that vaccinations “protect the health of children and adults and save lives.”
Organizations that signed the letter included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and 132 more national organizations as well as 181 state groups.
Autism organizations like the Autism Science Foundation, Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Autism Speaks also signed the letter.
In America, before we began widespread vaccinations for mumps, measles and rubella, we saw 450 adults and children die every year just from measles.
That’s just one of the vaccinations we give that save millions every year from death and serious illness. The chance of someone being injured by a vaccination, not killed, is one or two per million, but when you properly vaccinate a million people for measles, you prevent 100 deaths.
Americans have a one in 165,000 chance of being struck by lightning in their lifetime. We’re more likely to be struck by lightning than suffer a vaccination injury.
And for the few who might have had an allergic reaction to a vaccination, SB 83 allows for medical exemptions.
I had an anti-vaccine individual in my office the other day. She told me that SB 83 has been gutted of the provisions that would have compelled parents of school children to get them immunized. She is correct.
Then she described the current language of the bill, which requires parents to view a video that provides “information regarding the risks of not vaccinating their child and the possible medical complications resulting from vaccinations” before being exempted, as expecting too much of parents, or as she put it, “making them jump through hoops” to avoid vaccinating a child.
I told her I’m voting for the bill. I told her that if a parent wants to put his or her child in a public school without the appropriate immunizations there should be some hoops to jump through.
I recently heard from a constituent who is anti-vaccine and who told me that I didn’t get elected to vote my opinion but to vote for what my constituents want. Well, she’s right and she’s wrong.
More than 90 percent of my constituents with children in the public schools have their children immunized. That seems to support my position. But even more important than that is my conscience and it compels me to vote for this bill.
Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R-Big Cabin), whose district includes parts of Delaware County, is in his first term of office in the Oklahoma Senate. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 405-521-5561.