TMA Testimony by Ryan Van Ramshorst, MD
House Public Health Committee
House Bill 2171 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO
March 24, 2015
Good morning, Madame Chair and distinguished members. My name is Dr. Ryan Van Ramshorst. I am here today to speak in support of House Bill 2171 by Representative Sheffield. I am a pediatrician in San Antonio. I am here today on behalf of TMA, TPS, and the many health organizations that are part of the Texas Public Health Coalition.
As a pediatrician, giving vaccines is one of the most important services I provide my patients. Ensuring children are immunized at the appropriate times to protect them from dangerous, vaccine-preventable diseases is imperative. Keeping a record of those vaccinations for school entry and public health emergencies, and to avoid duplicating immunizations is critical. Our state immunization registry, ImmTrac, is a critical component of that process, as it can be accessed by authorized physicians, school personnel, or public health officials.
This legislation will ensure our children’s immunization records stay safe as they transition into adulthood. Currently these critical records are deleted at age 18, despite the parents’ original intention of creating the immunization record. These records are NOT available when our patients enroll in college, enter the military, or apply for their first job, and need to show proof of immunizations.
More than 90-95 percent of Texans choose to include their children’s records in ImmTrac. As our young patients grow from infancy to school age, the shot information from each of their series of vaccines to prevent pertussis, diphtheria, and measles are added to their records. When they come in for a checkup during adolescence, we add the doses of Tdap and meningococcal vaccines. We add their yearly flu shot. Having these records available in ImmTrac makes it easier for our patients to show immunization status when their family moves to a different school or physician office, or when they need to access shot records for summer camp.
However, all of these important records are deleted before our patients have a chance to use them as they approach adulthood. Their histories, often established at their parents’ consented when they were born, are simply deleted. The current structure requires our teen patients to submit a consent form to the state at age 18 to maintain their records in the database past their 18th birthday. The reality is, despite our efforts to remind our teen patients, they don’t make the effort to take care of their health records the way their parents did when they established the immunization record.
But we know that our teen patients do need access to their immunization history when they enter college or need to show proof of immunization when starting a job. House Bill 2171 simply extends the time before these records are deleted.
I use and depend on ImmTrac on a daily basis to keep my patients healthy. The confidential, electronic registry maintains my patients’ immunization record, which can be accessed by their doctor(s), child care center, or school nurse. Having a dependable vaccination record ensures patients are appropriately immunized, especially because the recommended immunization schedule is complex and our patients may move among different physicians and different cities in our state. Finally, I want to stress this measure has no impact on individuals whose parents chose not to participate in the registry. We absolutely respect the decisions of individuals who choose to remove their records from the registry, but our current system allows our young peoples’ records to be destroyed before they may even realize they likely will need to keep track of their own records. It is time we move to a system that helps maintain the immunization histories for the families who established these records. We urge you to support House Bill 2171. Thank you for your time.
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