INFORMED OPINION: Legislation aimed to give parents the right to know school vaccination rates
Each year a number of bills are filed to promote vaccination. This legislative session, House Bill 2249 would arm parents with important information concerning school vaccination rates.
Representative JD Sheffield, a physician practicing medicine for more than 20 years, is now representing Texas House District 59. He serves as Vice-chair of the Public Health Committee.
According to Dr. Sheffield, “The purpose of the bill is to give parents information they may have never seen before to help them make the best decision for the health of their child.”
In 2003, there were approximately 2,300 non-medical vaccination exemptions filed by parents in Texas.
Today, that number has grown to almost 45,000 exempted children statewide.
Studies show these exemptions have a tendency to cluster within schools, creating pockets of vulnerability. In fact, there are districts reporting as many as 3.6 percent of the students are opting out of vaccinations – almost four times the average rate in Texas schools.
This information is vital for parents of a child who may be immunocompromised due to a chronic disease, or have cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy. Children with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases.
Sheffield’s bill will require non-identifying exemption information to be reported at the campus level, giving parents the information they need to make an informed decision on where to place their child.
A child moving grades or changing districts may have multiple campuses to pick from, and this information may help parents make that decision. It also allows physicians and parents to know whether children with a weakened immune system should be allowed to return to school.
Ultimately, parents have a right to information they need in order to make a decision concerning their child's health. HB 2249 would provide the information they need.