Bill filed to change Texas’ immunization registry from ‘opt-in’ to ‘opt-out’


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Monday, state legislators were able to start filing bills for the upcoming legislative session.

All eyes are on the news of COVID-19 vaccine progress this week, but at least one state legislator is thinking about other vaccines. State Representative Donna Howard, (D-Austin), filed a bill proposing changes to the state’s immunization registry.

The registry provides patients, healthcare providers and public health officials information about who has received required vaccinations and when. Currently though, patients or their legal guardians need to give consent to be included in the database.

Rep. Howard, a former nurse, sees this as beneficial to the healthcare field as a whole that will hopefully increase registration. So do others, like Dr. Todd Bell, a Texas Tech Physicians Pediatrician. He explained the registry helps track vaccination rates and potential outbreaks.

“If we have a drop in the rate of vaccination for pertussis, for example, then we’re going to have an increased risk of pertussis in the in the community at large, and that public health messaging or input or trying to get folks to get their vaccines is going to be an intervention that can help to save lives,” Dr. Bell said.

He also added more patients in the system will help healthcare providers across the state.

“It helps as a practicing general pediatrician, it’s helpful for me to be able to—when I have a new patient who moves into the area or that comes from a different clinic—it’s nice to be able to look in to say, ‘Oh, yeah, you know, we’ve got all of our vaccinations have already been done,'” Dr. Bell said.

As with most bills, there are some expected concerns, including security. But Dr. Bell said he’s confident in the safety of the state’s system.

“I’m not somebody that enjoys giving my zip code or phone number to folks when I go to the hardware store. If I need to buy paint, I just want to buy the paint. However, I think that in the state vaccine registry like this, this is something that is as secure as anything can be in the digital world,” Dr. Bell said.

Others are concerned it could become an extra burden for some populations.

Deborah Skolaski, whose 9-year-old granddaughter Cori was diagnosed with a rare disease when she was two, says she hopes it doesn’t create more of a problem for her family.

“When you’re a rare disease patient, you have a lot of medical burdens and hurdles that you have to jump through with other things like medications,” Skolaski said.

“It creates an additional burden for the parent to have to say, and supply medical information as to why they’re opting out,” Skolaski continued.

But, there are not any details yet about the requirements of opting out. She says if an option could be added in to guarantee an easier process for her granddaughter, she would be more supportive.

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