As we approach the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, many parents are reaching out and asking about how to file their vaccine exemptions. Here are the answers to your frequently asked questions!
What type of exemptions are there?
There are currently 3 types of vaccine exemptions available to Oklahoma students: medical, religious, and philosophical (sometimes called the personal belief exemption). As of the 2016-17 school year, Oklahoma had a 1.9% exemption rate. 0.2% of exemptions are medical, 0.55% are religious, and 1.18% are philosophical.
When do I need to file an exemption?
Exemptions are only required for children attending daycare, head start or school. You do not need to file an exemption for health care coverage, including Soonercare. You also are not required to fill out an exemption form for any state subsidies such as WIC, or food stamps.
What vaccines are required to attend school or daycare in Oklahoma?
Requirements are set by the Oklahoma State Board of Health. Currently, there are 26 doses of 8 different vaccines required for Oklahoma children attending daycare or school. Doses or new vaccines can be added at any time by the Oklahoma State Board of Health. Remember these vaccines are required, UNLESS a parent obtains a vaccine exemption.
Which exemption should I choose?
Deciding which exemption to use is ultimately up the the parent. The medical exemption requires a signature from a licensed physician in the state of Oklahoma. The religious exemption requires a signature from a parent, or a religious leader. A personal belief exemption requires a signature of a parent and a brief summary of the objection. Lost or unobtainable immunization records are not a ground for personal exemption.
What Schools and Childcare Centers are required to accept an exemption?
Any school that follows state statute must accept an exemption, this includes all public schools, charter schools, and most private schools. However, some private schools (usually those run by churches) do not fall under Oklahoma state statute and they are not required to accept vaccine exemptions. Headstart facilities have similar rules. If they are run by a public school they must accept exemptions. Childcare facilities in Oklahoma are all considered private businesses, even if they accept state subsidies. Because of this, child care facilities can decide if they would like to accept vaccine exemptions. If a facility that is required to accept exemptions is refusing to accept your exemption, please call the Oklahoma State Department of Health at 405-271-4073 to report non-compliance. Please also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
How do I get an exemption form?
Facilities used to be required to keep exemption forms on hand but, this changed in 2017. It is now recommended that parents print off the exemption form themselves and turn it in. You can find the exemption form here. County health departments and private doctors do not have exemption certificates. Parents are not required, nor should they come to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, to obtain an exemption certificate.
How do I fill out the exemption form?
Fill out the form completely, otherwise you may be denied. All sections in GREEN on the example must be completed. Only ONE of the sections in BLUE should be completed. After you have filled out the form completely, you can give it to the school. The school is responsible for submitting the form to the Department of Health for approval. In the meantime the child IS permitted to attend school.
What should I write as an objection if I choose a personal belief exemption?
When filling out a personal exemption, keep these things in mind:
My child has received some vaccines, but not others or we chose to skip a dose. Can I use an exemption?
Yes. Parents can turn in a vaccine record, along with the exemption form to the facility. Make sure you have check marked which vaccines you would like to exempt your child from on section four of the vaccine exemption form.
We use a delayed schedule, can I use an exemption form?
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, children are required to receive the school mandated vaccines on schedule. If you are behind, you may bring a schedule from your doctor or clinic and give a copy to the school. Some parents report having their exemptions denied if they wrote that they delay vaccines or use an alternate schedule as an objection when filling out a personal belief exemption.
I never heard if my exemption was approved or denied. What should I do?
If you never heard anything back, rest easy. Your exemption was most likely approved. Facilities generally only contact parents if it was denied.
My exemption form was denied, what do I do?
Don't panic! Print the exemption form off and try again. Make sure you fill it out COMPLETELY and correctly. Remember to only file for one type of exemption (medical, religious, or philosophical, not all three!) If you filed philosophical, reword your objection and make is short and sweet. Your child is allowed to continue to attend school during this.
If a child transfers to a new school or childcare facility in Oklahoma and has an exemption on file, do the parents need to fill out a new exemption form?
No, as long as the child is transferring between schools or childcare facilities in Oklahoma the child can take the exemption form with them to the new school or childcare facility.
Can my child be excluded from school in the event of an outbreak?
Yes. In the case of a disease outbreak in a school, representatives of the Oklahoma State Department of Health or local health department will visit the school, thoroughly review student immunization records, and make recommendations to the Commissioner of Health on whether or not students with exemptions should be excluded from school or school functions for the duration of the outbreak. The Commissioner of Health has the authority to exclude students with exemptions from school for the duration of a disease outbreak. This decision is usually based on the risk of disease transmission in the facility. The risk of transmission depends on the characteristics of the particular disease and the potential number of susceptible people that could be exposed to the disease.
My child has had an illness that is a required vaccine (such as chickenpox). Do I need to exempt my child from that vaccine?
Here is what is needed to document immunity to a disease.
"The Department may grant exemptions or substitutions in the immunization schedule based on ... a medical history stating the child is likely to be immune as a result of having had a vaccine-preventable disease if the following are met:
(1) A history of having had diphtheria and/or tetanus is not acceptable as proof of immunity since infection with diphtheria or tetanus may not render an individual immune to either of these diseases,
(2) A history of having had polio, pertussis, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B, or hepatitis A must be supported by laboratory evidence to be acceptable as proof of immunity to these diseases,
(3) A history of having had measles must be accompanied by a statement from a physician, public health authority, or laboratory evidence to be acceptable as proof of immunity to measles,
(4) A parental history of having had varicella is acceptable evidence of immunity to varicella."
Are there any legal ramifications to using a vaccine exemption?
There is no legal penalty for parents or guardians who obtain exemptions. You cannot be denied medical coverage (including soonercare), food stamps, WIC, or other state subsidies.
How can I let others know about vaccine exemptions?
Unfortunately, most people are unaware of their right to use a vaccine exemption. Even when asked, most schools do not understand vaccination laws, and even sometimes deny that vaccine exemptions exist. To help raise awareness we have made cards that teach about vaccination law. They are perfect for giving to your family or friends, or leaving in places like waiting rooms. You can order them here.
Can I use an exemption for college?
Exemptions are available for college in Oklahoma, but it is handled differently than schools. Here is the law regarding vaccination in higher education in the state of Oklahoma.
To read more about Oklahoma vaccine law, check here.