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Oklahoma Stagnant In Number Of Non-Medical Exemptions From Vaccination

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In the majority of schools, vaccinations are mandatory. But now more than ever, parents are getting their kids out of getting the vaccines through non-medical exemptions. In the majority of schools, vaccinations are mandatory. But now more than ever, parents are getting their kids out of getting the vaccines through non-medical exemptions.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

The Center for Disease Control reports nationally, the vaccination rate for students is up from last year. But at the state level, it's a different story. Oklahoma is exempt from that trend.

In the majority of schools, vaccinations are mandatory. But now more than ever, parents are getting their kids out of getting the vaccines through non-medical exemptions.

School nurses are left in disbelief. Thirty one years with Oklahoma City Public Schools, Debbie Johnson has never seen anything like this.

"Now it just blows me away to be honest," said Debbie Johnson, Health Services Administrator with Oklahoma City Public Schools.

While the CDC reports the rest of the nation is seeing a rise in vaccinations and a drop in exemptions, Oklahoma has a different diagnosis. We and 23 other states actually saw either an increase in non-medical exemptions, or no change at all.

Oklahoma is stagnant at 800 exemptions statewide. OKCPS is no different.

Nurse Johnson reports the number of personal and religious objections has now been at 0.5 percent of the district for the last three years. Her concern -- all it takes is one.

"We have medically fragile students in our classrooms that parents have to depend on that herd immunity that if we start losing that comfort we're going to have kids at risk," Johnson said.

Many experts point to new state laws and the measles outbreak in Disneyland that's cured nationwide numbers. But Johnson worries what's next here at home?

"If it touched Oklahoma, personally, it would make a change. But it just hasn't yet. I think if something happened it would have a difference," Johnson said.

At least one state lawmaker wants to make a difference. Senator Yen has filed a bill that would not allow personal or religious objections for school, similar to the new law in California.

"This is not about whether a parent vaccinates or not. It’s about a parent retaining their choice in the matter. The religious and philosophical exemptions protect citizens and they have for decades if they oppose any or all vaccines. We need a choice, and the Oklahoma Parental Bill of Rights supports that choice," said Liza Greve with Oklahomans for Vaccine Choice

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