Bills target high rates of Texas schoolchildren lacking vaccinations

(Austin-American Statesman) 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.

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