Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and they help keep people and the economy healthy. The COVID-19 pandemic “clearly illustrates what can happen when a vaccine does not exist to ward off deadly disease.”
That’s the message the Texas Medical Association is sending to lawmakers this session as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and vaccine hesitancy and conscientious exemptions are on the rise.
“There is no question that vaccines are vital to the healthy functioning of society,” San Antonio epidemiologist Charles Lerner, MD, told Texas Medicine. “Since the introduction of required immunizations for children, several highly contagious diseases have been all but eradicated, saving thousands of lives annually. In fact, many physicians today have never seen a case of measles.”
This session, TMA is calling on lawmakers to:
- Oppose any efforts to weaken school immunization requirements;
- Request frequent, detailed, and transparent government reporting of immunization data, including for long-term care facilities;
- Remove obstacles to campus enforcement of school immunization requirements;
- Support funding for a coordinated statewide campaign to encourage families to vaccinate their children;
- Improve access to and integration of ImmTrac2, the state’s vaccine registry; and
- Create access to flu vaccines through the Adult Safety Net program.
Several vaccine-related bills have been filed, including:
House Bill 325 by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), which would change ImmTrac2 from on opt-in system to an opt-out system, in which a patient’s vaccine information is automatically recorded. An opt-out system would make it easier for physicians and health care professionals to determine whether a patient is vaccinated, and would greatly reduce excess hassles and paperwork for physicians. Under HB 325 patients would be able to opt out of the registry if they wish. The companion bill is Senate Bill 468 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).
Senate Bill 636 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), the Parents Right to Know bill, would require deidentified student immunization rates to be published at the school campus level, not the school district level. This can help the parents of immunocompromised students know if a particular school campus is safe for their child to attend.
Read more about TMA’s legislative agenda on immunization access and the state vaccine registry. And be sure to check out TMA’s Vaccines Defend What Matters campaign to help spread the word about the importance of vaccines.
Take action now
TMA needs your help to make sure these immunization bills get heard in their respective committees, which gives them a greater chance at becoming law. Call the House Public Health Committee at (512) 463-0806 and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee at (512) 463-0360 to set HB 325, SB 468, and SB 636 for public hearings.
Also watch your email inbox for time-sensitive Action Alerts, an effective and an efficient way for you to share your messages of concern and support with legislators from the convenience of your desk or mobile phone. You also can find Action Alerts on TMA’s Grassroots Action Center or the VoterVoice mobile app.
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Edit: This story has been corrected to say an opt-out system would greatly reduce excess hassles and paperwork for physicians and patients.