from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Beth Bryant
(512) 475-2635
August 5, 2003

As Texas Immunization Rates Continue to Fall, Senator Zaffirini Urges Repeal of Conscientious Objector Clause

Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, expressed concern that Texas' national immunization rank for the number of children fully immunized against deadly childhood disease slipped from 42nd in 2001 to 45th in 2003. "When you look at the difference immunizations have made in public health, it is incredible that parents would not fully immunize their children against deadly childhood diseases," Senator Zaffirini said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced recently (August 1) that approximately 71 percent of Texas children aged 19 to 35 months were fully immunized last year, falling from 74.9 percent the previous year. In response to the crisis, Governor Rick Perry signed an executive order to enact immediately legislation passed by Senator Zaffirini to bolster Texas' lagging immunization rates. "This measure, however, is not enough," she said.

House Bill 2292, by Representative Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, and signed by Governor Perry, includes a provision allowing a conscientious objection to any vaccine and further deters parents from fully immunizing their children. Under current law parents are granted only a religious objection. The new law allows parents to object to childhood vaccinations for any reason. This will impact negatively the overall vaccination rates of Texas children and potentially can cause harm to unsuspecting children and their families.

"The decreased state rank, coupled with recent legislation that will weaken efforts to fully immunize children, is quite troubling. This is a time when we must do more, not less, to protect all Texas children from deadly childhood diseases," Senator Zaffirini said. "Although I applaud the Governor's efforts to expedite the legislation that I and other members of the Legislature passed during the 78th Regular Session, it is not enough. We must repeal the conscientious objection statute. Allowing for a conscientious objection is the most atrocious reversal of our efforts to immunize Texas children in recent history."

During the 78th Legislative Session, Senator Zaffirini passed five bills relating to immunization. She has championed increased immunization and in 1993 authored the "Shots Across Texas" bill that created an immunization education campaign that increased immunization rates by 35 percent.

For more information, contact Senator Zaffirini's Capitol office at 512/463-0121.

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