You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Bills target high rates of Texas schoolchildren lacking vaccinations


Highlights

Among 25 most populous Texas counties, Travis County had the highest rate of nonmedical vaccine exemptions.

Williamson and Hays counties were among the top five.

Lawmakers have filed bills to change from opting in to opting out of vaccinations.

Among the state’s most populous counties, Travis County has the highest percentage of schoolchildren who are exempted from vaccinations for nonmedical reasons, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Immunization Partnership, an Austin-based nonprofit that promotes vaccinations, reported that in the 2015-16 school year, 3,844 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in Travis County, or roughly 2.3 percent of students, filed nonmedical exemptions to vaccinations that help prevent such diseases as polio, hepatitis, meningitis, mumps, measles and rubella. Hays and Williamson counties are third and fifth on the list, respectively.

“It is really a no-brainer,” state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said during a news conference Wednesday. “We can prevent diseases. We can prevent death if we have appropriate immunizations.”

READ: Personal belief waivers to vaccinations triple in Texas over six years

Statewide last school year, 44,716 students were exempted from at least one vaccine requirement for nonmedical reasons, which include moral, religious or personal beliefs. The latest number is a 19-fold increase from the 2003-04 school year, when nonmedical exemptions were first allowed. Nonmedical exemptions tend to surpass the number of medical exemptions each year.

Howard has filed bills to be considered next year that would require students to opt-out of the state’s immunization registry called ImmTrac rather than opt-in and physicians to counsel parents on vaccinations before they obtain an exemption.

Jamie Schanbaum, a 28-year-old Austin resident who attended the event Wednesday, said that if parents knew more about vaccinations, they wouldn’t avoid them. Schanbaum lost her legs and fingers to meningitis eight years ago when she was a University of Texas student, she said. She successfully pushed for a law in 2011 that requires every entering Texas college student to receive a meningococcal vaccine or opt out.

“Like most people, I didn’t know what meningitis was or what it could lead to. I watched my limbs turn from red rash to purple to black. I didn’t know if I was going to survive. If people knew about meningitis more, I don’t think there would be a question to opt-out of the vaccine,” she said.

NEWS STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX: Click here to get our Morning Headlines email

Last year, the Home School Legal Defense Association opposed a similar bill that would have required physicians to counsel parents before deciding against vaccines, saying that it would diminish the parental rights of home-schooled children. The bill, filed by Howard, didn’t get a committee hearing — the first step in the process of moving a bill forward

Some anti-vaccine organizations and parents believe vaccines cause autism, although studies don’t support that assertion. A 1998 research paper that triggered a worldwide scare over autism and vaccines has been debunked, and the journal that published the article has retracted it.

Objections to the vaccines include concerns about the safety of their ingredients, the frequency of vaccinations in small children and side effects.

Messages left with Texas Health Freedom Coalition, Texans for Vaccine Choice and Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education weren’t returned Wednesday.

Public health officials stress that while vaccines are safe, none is completely effective or free of side effects.

State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, also has filed four bills related to vaccinations, including one that would allow teens 14 and older to provide their own consent to obtain the vaccination against the human papillomavirus, which can cause throat cancer in men and cervical cancer in women.

“The science is 100 percent on the side of those who advocate for widespread immunizations to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases,” Davis said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

15% of UT women report being raped, Capitol hearing reveals
15% of UT women report being raped, Capitol hearing reveals

A survey of University of Texas undergraduates found that 15 percent of women reported being raped while enrolled at the Austin campus. The survey result, revealed Thursday during a Capitol hearing on four bills to address what was described as an “epidemic” of sexual assaults on college campuses, jolted several senators and brought promises...
Man whose parents locked him away for 2 years wants them to stay in prison
Man whose parents locked him away for 2 years wants them to stay in prison

For two years, Mitch Comer’s mother and stepfather, Sheila Comer and Paul Comer, kept him locked inside a bedroom in his family’s rental home in Georgia. He was shut off from the outside world and even his two younger sisters until September 2012. By then, Comer, who was 18 at the time, was loaded on a bus and sent to Los Angeles with...
UT groups promote sex assault prevention ahead of annual ‘Round Up’ weekend
UT groups promote sex assault prevention ahead of annual ‘Round Up’ weekend

The University of Texas is gearing up for  the 87th annual “Round Up” weekend, an annual philanthropy event hosted by the Interfraternity Council at Texas, but some students and organizations are taking precautions to prevent sexual assault. From Thursday night through Saturday, members of the IFC – which governs 27 Greek...
Inmate accused of plotting murders of sexual assault victims
Inmate accused of plotting murders of sexual assault victims

An inmate in a Pennsylvania jail the Allegheny County Jail is accused of plotting the murders of five juveniles who accused him of sexual assault. Michael Scherbanic, 29, a prisoner in the Allegheny County Jail and is now charged with 27 new criminal counts, including solicitation to commit criminal homicide.  >> Read more trending news...
Court asked to block Texas congressional map for 2018 election

Texas should be blocked from using a map of congressional districts that was found to have been drawn in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act, a federal court was told Thursday. The motion, filed with a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, follows a March 10 ruling that invalidated three districts, including one in Travis County...
More Stories