Physicians Back Bills That Strengthen Vaccines’ Potential

A teenager can make decisions about vaccinating her baby, but under current Texas law, typically she cannot get a flu shot herself without her parent’s consent. A bill moving through the legislature aims to change that. 

Senate Bill 63 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R- Flower Mound) would allow a minor who is pregnant or is a parent to consent to his or her own immunizations. The bill is one of several immunization-related bills supported by Texas Medical Association (TMA) physicians.

“We need to do everything we can to make sure that everyone around babies, including their own parents, do not pass on influenza or pertussis or other vaccine-preventable diseases to the child,” said Celia B. Neavel, MD, an Austin family physician specializing in adolescent health. She noted several Texas babies died in 2012 from pertussis because the people caring for these infants were not properly vaccinated.

Dr. Neavel says the bill, which was her idea, corrects a common situation: A recent patient, a teen mother with her baby, came in for a postpartum/well-child visit. The young woman needed vaccinations but could not receive them, as her own mother was away at work and not present to sign a consent form. “She will have to return with her mother another time if possible, if the mother can take off work, which might never happen; it was a wasted opportunity,” said Dr. Neavel. “Of course, this same teen signs consents for her own baby’s vaccines and has a good understanding of their importance.”

Other immunization-related bills TMA advocates this session include: 

  • Senate Bill 62 by Senator Nelson and House Bill 565 by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Rockwall), which lowers the age requirement from 30 to 22 for incoming college students to be vaccinated for meningococcal disease. This aligns more closely with the national recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and also requires on-campus students to use the Texas Department of State Health Services’ vaccination exemption form and process.
  • Senate Bill 40 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and House Bill 772 by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), which would change the state’s immunization registry (ImmTrac) from an opt-in system to an opt-out system.
  • House Bill 771 by Representative Howard, which would allow the state to keep an individual’s vaccination records in ImmTrac up to the age of 26 under certain circumstances.
  • Senate Bill 64 by Senator Nelson and House Bill 1150 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), which would require licensed childcare facilities to develop and implement an immunization policy for their employees to protect the children in their care from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Kim Avila Edwards, MD, a member of TMA’s Council on Science and Public Health, told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that TMA and the Texas Pediatric Society endorse SB 64.

"Unvaccinated childcare workers pose a risk to vulnerable children in their care, primarily for three reasons,” said Dr. Avila Edwards, an Austin pediatrician. “Children in childcare facilities are at increased risk for exposure to these diseases; children are often under-immunized, so they’re more susceptible to disease; and children are more at risk for more severe disease.”

The committee passed versions of both SB 63 and SB 64 Tuesday, so now the full Senate will consider them. The committee is still considering the other bills. 

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 47,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
 

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March 1, 2013  

 

Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807
 

Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320
 

 

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