Lucio Masthead Graphic
August 6, 2008
Contact: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
(512) 463-0385
Remember To Vaccinate Children Before School Bell Rings

The old cliché "life goes on" cannot be truer for us in the Rio Grande Valley who continue to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Dolly.

While we are still battling mosquitoes and clearing flood-ravaged areas, we can't ignore the school bells that will soon be ringing throughout South Texas. A high priority for parents preparing their children for the first day of school should be getting them immunized.

The NeMours Foundation reports that parents may sometimes hesitate to vaccinate their children because they're worried the child will experience serious reactions or acquire the illness the vaccine is supposed to prevent. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) informs us that vaccines are safe and serious side effects are very rare. Vaccines, like any other drug, are not without some risks. However, unlike other drugs, vaccines are held to a high safety standard since they are given to healthy individuals.

Other than perhaps sheer luck, vaccines are the safest and most effective prevention tool for serious and sometimes fatal diseases like pertussis (whooping cough), measles, tetanus, hepatitis B, diphtheria, as well as others. This year three infants have died in Texas from whooping cough. They were likely exposed to older children or adults who were coughing. The infants were too young to be immunized, but had the children or adults around them been vaccinated, perhaps they would not have contracted the disease at all.

"Immunizations are important, particularly for children in a school setting, because students spend a large amount of time in close situations," explains Mr. Jack Sims, Manager of the Immunization Branch of DSHS. "If any of these children are unvaccinated, the potential is there for an outbreak to occur."

Vaccines can save lives and halt the spread of disease, especially among children.

Public health officials use the term "herd immunity," which means that the more highly vaccinated a specific group or population, is the less likelihood of an outbreak.

Our schools in Texas have very high vaccine coverage overall; each vaccine's coverage is at 95 percent or higher, meaning that 95 percent of the children in a school are vaccinated. For Senate District 27, most public and private school kindergarteners were vaccinated for 2007-08 at rates ranging from 87 to 100 percent.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) tells us that some vaccine variations are acceptable and changes in recommendations frequently occur as new vaccines are developed. Many of these vaccines are available as combinations to reduce the number of shots a child receives. It is best to consult a health professional to determine the best vaccinations and schedule for each child.

For complete information on immunizations, including school requirements and how to obtain an exemption, a person can log onto or call 800-252-9152, with information available in both English and Spanish.

Parents or guardians can obtain a copy of a child's shot record by contacting either the child's private physician or the local city/county health clinic where the child received the immunizations. For assistance in locating a city/county health clinic, a person can call 2-1-1. For those who have consented to having their child's immunization information entered into the statewide immunization registry called ImmTrac, the family's private physician or the local city/county health clinic can search the registry. Immunization records are not available online for the general public to access.

When considering any medical treatment, there are risks and benefits. Yet DSHS tells us that the benefits of vaccinating far outweigh the risks, which are usually mild and localized reactions, but often there is no reaction to a vaccine.

Mr. Sims cautions, "We forget the days when Americans were hit with polio. Some died, some live with life-long disabilities."

For a brighter outlook, he adds, "Today, polio only exists in a few countries around the world, and the United States has not had a case of polio since 1979."

Let's do all we can to prevent the resurgence of deadly diseases like polio in our communities. Working with DSHS, our city/county clinics, schools, local physicians and families, we can ensure a safer and healthier South Texas.

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.