Testimony of James L. Lukefahr, MD
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
House Bill 2171 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO
May 20, 2015
Good morning, Chair Schwertner and distinguished members. My name is Dr. James L. Lukefahr. I am here to speak in support of House Bill 2171 by Representative Sheffield, and sponsor Sen. Judith Zaffirini. I am a pediatrician in San Antonio and a member of the Texas Medical Association and am a former president of the Texas Pediatric Society. I am here today on behalf of TMA, TPS, and the many health organizations that are part of the Texas Public Health Coalition.
Giving vaccines is one of the most important services physicians provide a patient. Ensuring children and adults 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, and public health officials. This legislation will ensure our children’s immunization records stay safe as the children 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 currently NOT available when our patients enroll in college, enter the military, apply for their first job, or when they travel to other countries and need to show proof of immunizations.
More than 90 to 95 percent of Texas parents choose to include their children’s records in ImmTrac1. As our young patients grow from infancy to school age, new 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 immunization histories, typically established with their parents’ consent when they were born, are simply deleted, unless our 18-year-old teen patients to submit a consent form to the state. 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. HB 2171 simply extends the time before these records are deleted. The amendment added by the House to HB 2171 also ensures that the 18 year old will be required to consent for their physician or health provider to view their vaccination records.
In our health facility, we care for children who are being evaluated for child abuse, and we use and depend on ImmTrac on a daily basis. The confidential, electronic registry maintains our patients’ immunization records. Having a dependable vaccination record ensures patients are appropriately immunized — especially as 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 have chosen not to participate in the registry. We absolutely respect the decisions of individuals who choose not to participate or to remove their records from the registry at any time, 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.
1Feb. 2015 communication with DSHS, 4th quarter data, Oct 1, 2014-Dec. 30, 2014.