As immunization advocates we all try to do our part to spread the message that vaccines save lives in our own way. There are those that are active in organizations such as The Immunization Partnership while others take time to sit down with their friends and family to explain the important role vaccines play in keeping our community safe. Just as important, there are those that stand up for the power of vaccines simply by staying up-to-date on recommended vaccinations or by having their children immunized against a list of potentially life threatening vaccine-preventable diseases. In my eyes, none of these roles is more important than the other. It takes everyone doing their part, in their own way to make a difference. I am excited that this Wednesday, March 27, my husband and I, along with the staff members of the Immunization Partnership and a number of dedicated vaccine advocates will spend the day at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas for TIPs annual Legislative Day. For me, this is more than just another opportunity to spread the truth about vaccines. This is actually an opportunity to meet with the men and women who have the legal power to make a difference in our state. Without the support of our legislators, there is only so much we as constituents can do to improve vaccine rates in Texas and ultimately make our communities a safer place to live. It is critical that our lawmakers and their staff are properly educated about immunizations and the impact they have on the health of all Texans and I am proud to say I will be a part of that process this year.
So what do we hope to accomplish during our visits? Here is a brief summary of four immunization related bills currently being discussed in the 83rd Texas Legislative session:
- Meningitis SB 62 (Nelson)/HB 565 (Laubenberg): This bill aims to revise the age requirement for the meningitis vaccine law, by eliminating the immunization requirement for students 22 years of age and older. The revision also establishes DSHS as the only state agency allowed to grant exemption affidavits to students and eliminates the THECB exemption form.
- ImmTrac Immunization Registry HB 772 and HB 771 (D. Howard): In combination, these bills would allow all child immunization data to be automatically stored in ImmTrac, unless a parent chooses to opt-out. This bill also strikes language that requires the state to purge immunization records once a child turns 18. Additionally, this bill would require immunization data to continue to be stored in ImmTrac after an individual turns 18. The records will be preserved in the system until the individual turns 26, unless the individual chooses to opt-out of the registry. This bill ensures that immunization data is available for young adults to facilitate adherence to education and employment requirements.
- Child Care Provider Immunization SB64 (Nelson)/HB 1150 (Zerwas): This bill requires licensed child-care facilities to develop and implement a policy to protect the children in its care from vaccine-preventable diseases. Policies are to include: 1) identification of which vaccines are required for their employees based on their contact with children, 2) procedures for verifying compliance with vaccine policies, 3) procedures for medical exemptions, 4) procedures that unvaccinated employees must follow to ensure the children are protected from exposure to disease, 5) requirements that facilities maintain a system for documenting the vaccination status of their employees, and 6) disciplinary actions that facilities are authorized to take against employees who fail to comply with the policies. The bill states that child-care facility policies may include procedures for an employee to be exempt from vaccinations based upon reasons of conscience. However, it is not required.
- Consent For Minors SB63 (Nelson): This bill would allow minors with children to consent to their own immunization. Specifically, the bill would “a child may consent to the child’s own immunization if the child: (1) is pregnant; or (2) is the parent of a child and has actual custody of that child.”
Check back on Friday for an update and more details about our visit!