If you were raising children in the 1950’s or before, you had a tremendous fear that never crosses the mind of parents today—polio. At its worst, the disease could cause permanent muscle paralysis and even death. 1952 was considered the height of the polio epidemic, with more than 60,000 cases and 3,000 deaths reported in the United States.
Today, the disease has been virtually eliminated from this part of the world, thanks to the polio vaccine. Because of this and other vaccines many diseases like mumps, measles and diphtheria that were once common in this country are no longer common.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), routine immunization of children born in 2009 prevented approximately 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease. Vaccinations not only prevent childhood disease and death, but it is estimated it also results in a net savings of $69 billion in costs associated with missed work days due to illness, the cost of resulting disabilities and the cost of work days parents miss when caring for sick children.
Knowing all the benefits of vaccinating children against these serious diseases, it’s very troubling to see that Oklahoma is currently ranked 48th in the country for the percentage of children who are up-to-date on primary vaccines.
For many Oklahomans, there is a problem with access to vaccinations. Even with insurance, there are medical practices that no longer do vaccinations. While local health departments provide this service, their rules currently do not allow them to provide recommended immunizations for those with medical insurance, often leaving those families with nowhere to go for vaccinations.
That could change if Senate Bill 1911 becomes law. Under this legislation, county health departments would provide recommended immunizations to all children, including those without and those with insurance. The bill does allow the assessment of an administrative fee for those individuals with insurance to address the additional cost of immunizing children who currently do not qualify.
The measure has already been approved by the full Senate with bipartisan support and is now in the House of Representatives.
When families do not have access to recommended vaccinations, it can cause a tremendous hardship. There are some shots that are not mandatory for grade school but are required by day care centers, leaving young parents in a terrible bind when their own doctor doesn’t do vaccinations and the county health department rules prevent them from doing it either. This is in every way a public health issue—it is important that we pass this legislation to make sure all Oklahoma children will have access to these vaccinations.
Thanks again for reading my “Senate Review.” If you have any questions on a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing me with your concerns at: Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 537, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate. May God bless each of you.