UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Promoting vaccines is of the utmost importance in this pandemic-marred moment in history, the Texas Medical Association told the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee today.
That’s why TMA stands in strong opposition to a bill that the house of medicine believes could do the opposite – discourage vaccinations with a smokescreen of complicated, technical information that could scare parents of young patients.
Heard in today’s committee hearing, Senate Bill 1310 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) would require physicians to disclose the excipients contained in a vaccine in order to obtain informed consent from parents before administering the vaccine to their children. Excipients include preservatives, adjuvants, and stabilizers, as well as other types of materials that are used during the manufacturing process and removed before the vaccine is shipped out.
Austin pediatrician Marjan Linnell, MD, testified for TMA against the bill. She told the committee existing requirements already ensure informed consent, and additional state laws would be “unnecessary and burdensome” to physicians.
“Mandating [disclosure of] additional materials, including a list of vaccine ingredients and substances used during manufacturing, is not a benefit to patients,” Dr. Linnell wrote. “A list of highly technical, chemical compounds that may be used to help prevent bacterial contamination of the vaccine or that work as a stabilizer to protect the vaccine from heat or light is confusing. This information does not contribute to patients’ and parents’ understanding of the risks and benefits of vaccinations, and may sow doubt about the efficacy and safety of vaccines by complicating patient understanding.”
Public health control measures
Some days at the Capitol, one physician carries a heavy testimonial load on behalf of TMA. On Tuesday, it was Lindy McGee, MD, testifying on vaping and Medicaid bills. Today, it was Dallas public health physician John Carlo, MD, representing medicine on several public-health measures.
One of those public health measures was another bill by Representative Hall that would require additional steps before health authorities could isolate or quarantine a person or groups for health reasons.
Under SB 1313, health authorities would be required to:
- Give people or groups unspecified “notice” before imposing control measures that involve isolation or quarantine;
- Give the people or groups “an opportunity to demonstrate that the implementation of control measures is not necessary;” and
- Obtain a court order to implement those measures by convincing the court that the individual or group is infected or “reasonably suspected” of being infected with a communicable disease that threatens public health.
“We urge this committee to consider the implications, including potential harm, that may follow if a health authority is required to wait for an unspecified amount of time to allow a group to provide reasons for why it should not have public health measures applied to it,” Dr. Carlo wrote to the Senate health committee on behalf of the Texas Public Health Coalition, which includes TMA “TPHC recommends this committee consider specifying a time frame for when a group can provide reasons for why it should not follow public health measures.”
Requiring health authorities to show a court evidence of infection of a communicable disease before getting a court order “creates unnecessary delay and burden,” Dr. Carlo added.
He requested that the committee protect physicians’ and other public health officials’ ability “to use the best scientifically proven tools to stop the spread of infectious diseases to prevent unnecessary illness and death.”
Disaster response and reporting
Dr. Carlo also testified before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on a pair of bills by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) that address the state’s preparedness and response to public health disasters and data reporting for those disasters.
Senate Bill 968 would require the Texas Division of Emergency Management to enter into a contract with a manufacturer of personal protective equipment (PPE) that guarantees the division would get priority PPE purchasing status during a disaster. SB 968 also would require certain state agencies to jointly conduct annual public health disaster and emergency preparedness planning.
Dr. Carlo’s written testimony praised those provisions. But he expressed TMA’s concern over parts of the bill that would require physicians and laboratories to report certain technical details of positive tests for communicable diseases during a public health disaster or emergency, and create a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for a lab’s failure to submit the test information required.
“TMA does understand the need for accurate, timely data during a disaster,” Dr. Carlo wrote. “However, the burden on smaller practices to report what may be hundreds of point-of-care tests daily can be both overwhelming and time consuming, and the penalties would add even more stress and pressure to physicians while they are busy actively responding to the pandemic.”
Through Dr. Carlo, TMA also weighed in with support for Senator Kolkhorst’s Senate Bill 969, which generally requires electronic data reporting of a reportable disease – rather than by archaic fax machine – if the physician reports at least 30 cases of the disease in a month. SB 969 also would require the creation of a “standardized and streamlined method for sharing information needed during the disaster or response,” and would establish an Office of Chief State Epidemiologist within the Texas Department of State Health Services.
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