Bill of the Week: House Bill 2474
Bill would require additional reporting of vaccine-preventable diseases
House Bill 2474
Author: Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville
Filed: March 5. Passed by House: May 4.
Referred to Senate Health and Human Services: May 11.
Calling Republicans anti-science is an easy slur, sadly one with plenty of substantiating evidence. But this session, it's been a Republican – practicing doctor Rep. J.D. Sheffield – leading the battle to keep kids safe from preventable diseases. With record numbers of whooping cough cases in North Texas, and measles out at Disneyland, the current fad for anti-vaccination is endangering lives. HB 2474 doesn't force parents to vaccinate their children (although there is an argument that it should). Instead, this is simply about reporting vaccination rates.
Currently, the Department of State Health Services requires epidemiological reports for outbreaks of diseases "suspected or known to be of importance to the public health." Sheffield's bill would require additional reporting of vaccine-preventable diseases. To that end, the bill would require school districts to provide data on immunization rates for each individual campus to the DSHS, including student immunization exemption information with all identifying data removed.
Of course, the word "vaccine" brought out the usual groups, like the National Vaccine Information Center, peddling the thoroughly disproved line that vaccines cause autism, and describing this health issue as one of individual rights, rather than public good. However, lawmakers seem more swayed by testimony from groups like the Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Medical Association, and March of Dimes. At a March 24 committee hearing, Anna Dragsbaek of the Immunization Partnership noted that this bill would protect children who cannot be immunized – for example, kids with cancer or autoimmune diseases – whose parents must decide the risk to which they should be exposed. With the percentage of kids vaccinated at a school during a disease outbreak a matter of public record, they could make better choices.
Sheffield has been down this road before with HB 465, a measure by Austin Democrat Rep. Donna Howard (see "Bad Science Marches at the Legislature," March 6) allowing the Texas Immunization Registry to keep more accurate records. When anti-vaxxers logjammed that in the House Public Health committee, a clearly frustrated Sheffield opined, "You can't vaccinate against stupid." At least HB 2474 has made it over to the Senate. But with session's end at sine die imminent, and no Senate sponsor attached, Sheffield should probably start researching that anti-stupidity vaccine.