Protect First Responders by Providing Immunizations Access

TMA Testimony by Thomas A. Kaspar, MD

Senate Health and Human Services Committee
House Bill 1256 by Rep. Dade Phelan

April 30, 2019

Thank you, Chair Kolkhorst and members of Senate Health and Human Services, for this opportunity to testify in support of House Bill 1256 by Representative Phelan. I’m Thomas Kaspar, an infectious disease physician and a member of the Victoria-Goliad-Jackson County Medical Society. I also serve as the incoming chair of the Committee on Infectious Diseases at the Texas Medical Association and am here representing TMA and its nearly 53,000 physician and medical student members. 

When Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast, first responders rescued more than 120,000 people,  clearly exemplifying “Texans helping Texans.” Just as they are saving and protecting lives, first responders themselves need to be protected and provided everything they need to do their job safely. This includes protecting them from potentially serious or even deadly infectious diseases, such as tetanus and hepatitis B, both of which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend disaster responders be immunized against.  Unfortunately, during the disaster, many first responders found themselves unaware of their vaccination status or waiting to be caught up on their vaccinations because of vaccine shortages. 

House Bill 1256 could potentially help avoid this happening again by granting first responders and their employers access to the first responders’ immunization records on the Texas statewide immunization registry during a disaster. The registry, ImmTrac2, is managed by the Department of State Health Services and provides one centralized system for Texans to provide written consent to store their immunization records securely and confidentially at no cost.  Knowing their vaccination status not only could help first responders be better prepared and protected but also may prevent potentially costly and unnecessary over-vaccination. 

An effective emergency/disaster response relies heavily on the capabilities and timeliness of our first responders. TMA supports House Bill 1256 and Representative Phelan’s efforts to make Texas ready for the next inevitable disaster. TMA looks forward to working with this committee to potentially save time, money, and lives. Thank you again for this opportunity to testify, and I would be happy to answer any questions at this time.

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Last Updated On

April 29, 2019