Oklahoma lawmaker: No tax dollars should be used for advertising COVID vaccines

“I do not want Oklahoma taxpayers to be funding this never-ending vaccine campaign by the department of health,” Rep. Wendi Stearman declared.

Published: February 11, 2022 2:34pm

Updated: February 11, 2022 11:26pm

(The Center Square) -

A bill currently in the Oklahoma Legislature would stop the Oklahoma State Department of Health from promoting COVID-19 vaccines.

“I do not want Oklahoma taxpayers to be funding this never-ending vaccine campaign by the department of health,” Rep. Wendi Stearman, the lawmaker who proposed the bill, told KFOR-TV. "My preference is just not using tax dollars to advertise this particular vaccine in any way. I expect that there is not a single citizen in Oklahoma who is not familiar with the fact that there is a vaccine available for the virus.”

Some critics have argued the bill will hinder the work of the state health department.

"Both vaccinations and public awareness are important tools in fighting COVID-19, but this legislation would hamper both by limiting the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s (OSDH) ability to educate Oklahomans," Jennifer Dennis-Smith, communications manager at Oklahoma State Medical Association, told The Center Square. "Sadly, in addition to a dangerous viral pandemic, we’re currently facing an epidemic of misinformation and, frankly, dangerous behavior from our state leaders."

Dennis-Smith said Oklahoma is experiencing its most significant health crisis in more than 100 years.

"Several factors come into play, however, rampant online misinformation about both COVID and the vaccine has contributed greatly," Dennis-Smith said. "Rep. Stearman has stated that this bill will help save Oklahomans' tax dollars. However, she has left out that this expenditure was paid using CARES funding specifically targeted toward increasing awareness about the vaccine."

The OSDH maintains its primary mission is to protect the health of Oklahomans. Whether it's been educating people about the importance of childhood vaccines, opioid addiction, or even elder abuse, the OSDH actions over the years have been focused on this objective, officials said. Dennis-Smith said to take away OSDH's ability to perform its basic function is not only short-sighted, but it is dangerous for the overall health of the state.

"We are hopeful that dangerous bills like HB 4322 do not become law and are committed to fighting any anti-science legislation in consideration," Dennis-Smith said.

The bill was referred to the House Public Health Committee.

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