The Texas House gave final approval Monday to a bill that would change how schools report how much of their student body is vaccinated. The bill passed, 98 to 40, but only after a loud and long debate.
Right now school districts anonymously collect data on how many kids are vaccinated and then report that data district-wide. Austin Independent School District has an overall vaccination exemption rate of 1.6 percent, for instance. The bill that passed out of the House Monday would break down the data for individual schools.
Some vaccine opponents see the bill as a way to pressure parents to vaccinate their children. Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) worries campus data will somehow let parents know which kids aren’t vaccinated, giving them the opportunity to use that information to pressure others.
“All they need to do is have somebody with that kind of mentality," Zedler says, "and there’s going to be a witch hunt, and there’s going to be bullying of children who either have a religious exemption or who have a philosophical exemption."
The bill’s author, J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville), says the schools don’t ask for the child’s name or address on the vaccination survey. Sheffield, a doctor, says parents have a right to know how many of their kid's peers have been vaccinated, and he dismissed the idea that specific parents might be pressured.
"This does not mandate any child getting vaccinations the parent does not want them to," Sheffield said in response to concerns about freedom. "So the parent, as we all know from earlier discussions, if they do not want their children to have vaccines, they can have a form signed at school."
Vaccination requirements have been a hot political topic in recent months, with some GOP Presidential candidates backing parents' choices to not vaccinate their children.