Vaccine debate continues at the Texas Capitol

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In the same week where the Texas State Capitol Nurse was administering vaccinations after a whooping cough case at the Capitol, parents are also making their case to lawmakers for legislation supporting exemptions and vaccine choice. 

“It is not the role of the government to mandate any medical procedure,” said Rebecca Hardy with Texans for Vaccine Choice.  

The debate over vaccinations and parental choice has resurfaced following several cases of reported measles across the state.  The latest update from the Department of State Health Services shows there have been 14 reported cases in Texas. 

Earlier this month, a poll released by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune showed most Texas voters support required childhood vaccinations for kids. Overall, 78 percent of voters think vaccinations for infections such as measles, mumps and whooping cough should be required.

In breaking down the 78 percent of voters who support required vaccinations: 86 percent are Democrats, 73 percent are Republicans and 67 percent are Independent voters. Fourteen percent, however, believe say they shouldn’t be required and eight percent say they don’t know.   

On Wednesday, lawmakers adopted an amendment to the House budget bill that would require state health officials to assess vaccination coverage levels and vaccination compliance of children enrolled at/attending licensed child care facilities or registered family homes. A survey on vaccination levels in child care facilities in the state was last collected and reported in 2013 and is available on the Texas’ health department’s website. Texas does have minimum vaccine requirements for child care and pre-K facilities from three months of age until 43 months, prior to kindergarten entry. 

“I think it’s interesting to know where we are and what level of immunizations we have in the day cares in Texas,” Beckley said. 

“We need to see and track where it’s going. Are we getting a higher percentage of children not being vaccinated?” 

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, has a bill that would allow for vaccine exemption forms to be downloaded online and available in all public schools. It would also no longer require the state health department to maintain a record of the total number of exemptions. State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, filed legislation that would allow a provider to administer a vaccine only if the study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has followed the requirements outlined by his legislation. The bill also mandates vaccines get evaluated for the potential “to cause cancer, mutate genes, affect fertility or cause infertility and autism spectrum disorder.” 

A study released this month confirmed there is no link between autism and vaccinations.

The FDA’s website says vaccines undergo “a rigorous review of laboratory and clinical data to ensure the safety, efficacy, purity and potency of these products.” The website also states, “vaccines approved for marketing may also be required to undergo additional studies to further evaluate the vaccine and often to address specific questions about the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness or possible side effects.”

Director of the Office of Vaccines Research and Review at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Marion Gruber, Ph.D., has said vaccinations are critical to helping children get a healthy start.  

Vaccine manufacturers are also already required to report to the FDA adverse experience information, per the agency’s regulations. 

Parents with Texans for Vaccine Choice, however, say the ultimate decision should be left up to them, without any governmental interference. Simpson’s son — who is now eight years old — received all vaccinations minus the one for chicken pox until he was four. Her 10-month-old daughter, Lola, hasn’t received any shots. 

“If you feel vaccines are safe, vaccinate your children,” said Coco Simpson, a mom from San Angelo. “We don’t feel they’re safe so we’re not going to vaccinate our children.”  

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