Talk to Patients About: Texas School Vaccines
By Sean Price Texas Medicine September 2020

Regardless of whether education takes place virtually or in-person, Texas school vaccination rules remain in effect for the 2020-21 school year, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (tma.tips/SchoolVaccineUpdates).

All Texas public schools (and most private schools) and colleges require students to have certain shots before they can attend classes at the beginning of a school year. But the COVID-19 pandemic has lobbed a bomb into the vaccine schedule for many families and their physicians, says Jason Terk, MD, a Keller pediatrician and immediate past chair of the Texas Medical Association’s Council on Legislation.

For instance, between early March and early June, the pandemic forced practices like Dr. Terk’s to postpone well checks for kids older than 18 months. And those regular well checks are when most kids get their vaccinations.

By June, many physician offices were able to reopen with improved protocols that make office visits safe, Dr. Terk says. But some parents remain worried about in-person visits.

“One of the main concerns we’ve had with COVID-19 among otherwise healthy kids is that some parents don’t feel comfortable coming in to see us for vaccinations and well visits, and vaccine rates have declined as a result,” he said.

Even before the pandemic, a growing number of Texas parents had sought vaccine exemptions. That has caused some schools and neighborhoods to become potential disease “hotspots,” where vaccine rates are low (texmed.org/VaccineExemptions). The immunization delays caused by COVID-19 could spark or worsen outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like flu or measles, Dr. Terk says.

“We physicians who previously had to limit access to our practices need to have some intentional outreach to families to come to see us now,” he said.

Here is a simplified version of the Texas vaccine schedule for schoolchildren.

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Tex Med. 2020;116(9):47
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Last Updated On

September 07, 2020

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Sean Price

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Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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