CDC: More Oklahoma parents seeking child vaccine exemptions
A child receives a vaccine at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic in this 2017 photo. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more Oklahoma parents are seeking vaccination exemptions for their children. COURTESY
TULSA (AP) – More Oklahoma parents are seeking vaccination exemptions for their children, an increase that mirrors a national trend, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A CDC survey found that Oklahoma’s exemption rate increased by 0.3 percent between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, The Tulsa World reported.
The state has three exemption categories: medical, religious or personal, according to the Oklahoma Health Department.
The CDC said 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.
Dewey, Woodward, Coal and Wagoner had the highest exemption percentages ranging from 4.7 percent to 3.5 percent. Tillman County reported a 100 percent immunization rate, while 18 other counties reported no immunization exemptions.
Parental vaccine hesitancy and the ease of obtaining an exemption may be factors contributing to the increase, researchers said.
Lori Linstead, the director of immunization service for the state’s Health Department, said research shows that vaccines have benefits.
“Of course we want adolescents to be vaccinated because research tells us that it protects people against vaccine-preventable diseases,” Linstead said.
The study also found that Oklahoma’s 92.6 percent vaccination rate for measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations lags behind the national average of 94.3 percent.
“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 for (measles, mumps and rubella),” Dr. Kristy Bradley, the state’s epidemiologist, said in a news release. “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.”