Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, a cardiac anesthesiologist, plans to file legislation next year that would remove the religious and philosophical exemption options.
Yen wrote the legislation after a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in California in December. As of Feb. 11, a total of 125 measles cases with rash had been confirmed in U.S. residents connected to the outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yen said he anticipates some lawmakers will argue that the government should not tell people what to do, but in the realm of vaccines, it’s a matter of public safety.
“This is not telling people they have to vaccinate their kids — it’s telling them they need to vaccinate their kids if they go to public, private or parochial schools,” Yen said.
Yen said he was concerned that, in Oklahoma, the number of children whose parents are choosing to exempt their children has continued to rise.
Although it remains a small number, Oklahoma has seen an increased number of parents choosing the personal exemption.
In the 2004-05 school year, only .3 percent of kindergarteners were not vaccinated because of their parents’ personal beliefs, according to a voluntary survey that the state Health Department administers to schools across Oklahoma. However, in 2014-15 school year, that number rose to 1.1 percent