Senate Republicans Advance Measure To Ban COVID Vaccination Requirements For Students

May 25, 2021

Credit American Academy of Pediatrics

As the end of session approaches, Oklahoma Republican lawmakers are pushing to ban COVID vaccination requirements for students from pre-K through university.

The state health department said last month individual governing boards may have authority to issue such requirements, but a statewide one would not happen. 

Senate Bill 658 also prohibits schools from requiring unvaccinated students to wear masks. When asked whether any K–12 schools were doing such things, Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) could not name one but suggested it could happen because of what OU is doing.

"You know, University of Oklahoma actually has a health science center where they have researchers and medical professionals, and they are leading the charge in requiring only unvaccinated children to wear masks. Why would not a common ed follow? And if they don’t, this is irrelevant to them," Standridge said.

OU’s current masking requirement applies to kids 2 to 11 years old and unvaccinated individuals of all ages inside university facilities, and all individuals in settings where patient care is involved. OU is also requiring COVID vaccination for anyone involved in patient care and students studying abroad.

Standridge has consistently criticized mask requirements.

Teacher-turned Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) said the legislature is trampling on local control.

"We don’t trust the federal government to tell us what we can and can’t do. Now we don’t trust local elected folks to tell us what we can and can’t do. So, we think a blanket policy for the whole state needs to be decided in this building when these decisions are being made right now in local communities — different decisions," Dossett said.

SB658 passed 38–8 with only Republicans in support. It now goes to the House.