Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pair of Bills Improve Texas’ Vaccine Data ― To Help Keep All Texans Safe and Healthy

Keller, TX pediatrician Jason Terk, MD, testified in support of two bills before the Texas Legislature’s House Public Health Committee that would improve infectious disease reporting in Texas and the state’s immunization registry (ImmTrac).

Don’t Toss 18 Year-Olds’ Valuable Shot Records 

House Bill 2171 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), would ensure Texas children’s immunization records are safely maintained as they transition into adulthood. Currently, when young Texans turn 18, their immunization record is removed, despite the parents’ original intention of creating the record.

“That presents a problem, because if their former physician is no longer in practice it can be difficult to get that record, which is something that young people oftentimes need for entry into institutions of higher learning as well as jobs,” said Dr. Terk.

Under current law, these youths suddenly discover after they turn 18 that their records are no longer available to show proof of immunizations to enroll in college, enter the military, or apply for a first job. HB 2171 extends the time before these records are deleted to 26 years of age.

“I don’t think very many of us at the age of 18 are thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get right to the registry to retain my immunization information.’ They have a lot of other things going on,” said Dr. Terk.

Improve Tracking of Disease Outbreaks, Vaccine Exemptions

TMA also testified in support of House Bill 2474, also by Representative Sheffield, who is a primary care physician. The bill would require the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to regularly provide information about vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks and the number of individuals with a vaccination exemption.

“That’s obviously a very topical thing because of the recent outbreak of measles arising from Disneyland,” said Dr. Terk. “Fortunately, there have been no Disneyland-associated measles cases in this state, but there are pockets of less-than-optimally vaccinated populations in this state. [HB 2474] would help with understanding and fine-tuning the risk for disease outbreaks as well as responding to disease outbreaks if they were to occur.”

The bill also would require DSHS to amp up its reporting of vaccine exemptions. This would give parents more information when selecting schools they might deem safer for children whose immune systems are compromised or who are more susceptible to disease.

“The parent of a medically fragile child is going to be very concerned to make sure they are in a safe environment when they are going to school, and if they can look up the information about the school and say, ‘Oh my gosh, the personal belief exemption rate is a lot higher in this school versus another one. I need to make a proactive decision to protect my child’ ― that’s going to be important for them.”

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