To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate…
The debate as to whether or not vaccines are safe has burned on for years. Some believe vaccine’s should be mandatory, while some believe it should be their choice.
However, are you aware that Texas has laws that require vaccinations? Did you know that there are exemptions to these mandatory vaccination laws? How about the exemptions to the exemptions?
Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on when it comes to vaccines, or perhaps you’re sitting on the fence, there is no debate that it is in your best interest to know the vaccine laws.
Texas requires that all children receive certain vaccines before they are allowed to attend school. “Each student shall be fully immunized against diphtheria, rubeola, rubella, mumps, tetanus, and poliomyelitis.”
Hold on though, this isn’t an exhaustive list because the law also says that “the Department of State Health Services may modify or delete any of the immunizations…or may require immunizations against additional diseases as a requirement for admission to any elementary or secondary school.”
This is the list of required vaccines for 2013-2014, but each year DSHS issues a new list with new vaccines that are required for attendance. Also, if you want to view schedules of how vaccines will be implemented in the near future, see 25 Tex. Admin. Code § 97.63.
Additionally, institutions of higher education may require students to receive these same vaccinations, may designate additional vaccines for students studying animal or human sciences, and may even mandate additional vaccines for any students during times of emergency or epidemic.
Bacterial Meningitis Vaccine
For new and transfer students, colleges now have a mandatory vaccine.
If you’re age 22 or above (the cutoff was age 30), or if you are only enrolling in online or distance courses, then this vaccination requirement does not apply to you. For the rest of you new or transfer students, then you must show proof that you have “received a bacterial meningitis vaccination dose or booster during the five-year period preceding…” the compliance date.
Also, students in 7th grade and up are required to receive this vaccine; however, there it is referred to as a “meningococcal” vaccine.
Exemptions from Vaccinations
For school-aged children, if a licensed medical doctor signs an affidavit or certificate stating that the “immunization required poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of the applicant or any member of the applicant’s family or household,” then the student will be exempted from having to receive the vaccination.
For college students, if a licensed medical doctor signs an affidavit or certificate stating that “in the physician’s opinion, the vaccination required would be injurious to the health and well-being of the student,” then the student will be exempted from having to receive the vaccination.
—Conscientious or Religious
For school-aged children and college students, the method for achieving this exemption is the same. Unfortunately, it appears that the only way to achieve this is through making a formal application through DSHS and registering the name of the individual requesting the exemption, along with their address and birth date.
This method takes several weeks to accomplish as the request has to be sent to Austin, TX, and then Austin must return this unique form to the applicant. This form may not be duplicated as it is printed on specialized paper and contains unique identification numbers and security devices to prevent it from being photocopied.
Once the applicant receives this form from Austin, then it must be signed in front of a Notary Public, which includes a statement that the applicant understands and filed with the school or college of the student no later than 90 days after being notarized.
The Fallout from Conscientious or Religious Exemptions
For students that are exempted from receiving vaccines based on conscientious or religious reasons are subject to additional limitations.
Elementary and Secondary students who have not received vaccinations “for reasons of conscience, including because of the person’s religious beliefs, may be excluded from school in times of emergency or epidemic declared by the commissioner of public health.”
Now for the scary part. For college students who receive an exemption from the bacterial meningitis vaccine for a conscientious or religious reason, this exemption “does not apply during a disaster or public health emergency, terrorist attack, hostile military or paramilitary action, or extraordinary law enforcement emergency declared by an appropriate official or other authority and in effect for the location of the institution the student attends.”
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479