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TEXAS, August 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Despite the fact that many children will be “in” school only virtually, receiving instruction via computer in their homes, the Texas Department of State Health Services has chosen not to relax its student vaccine requirements for the upcoming school year.

To be at a school or simply to be part of the education curriculum online, proof of immunization will be required.

More importantly to a growing number of parents in the Lone Star State, the right to exemption due to conscience — religious or otherwise — from mandatory vaccinations for schoolchildren is seen as under threat amid the ongoing heavy-handed pandemic strictures.

“While there is a state law that allows students to attend school without all required vaccinations, this law also gives state and local health authorities during times of emergency or pandemic the authority to exclude students from school who have not been vaccinated,” warns a notice from Texans for Vaccine Choice.

Health officials lament drop in vaccines to kids

After COVID-19 lockdowns derailed the normal cycle of wellness visits, many kids have not received routine childhood vaccinations.

Health officials are concerned that as immunizations rates drop, the risk of a measles, mumps, or whooping cough outbreak increases, and with the threat of COVID-19 still looming, simultaneous outbreaks could stretch local health resources to the limit. 

“It’s not a theoretical concern. It’s real,” Dr. Jason Terk, a pediatrician with Cook Children’s in Keller, told CBS Dallas/Fort Worth.

“It’s a terrifying trend for health leaders. We don’t want to have a pandemic and then have some epidemics alongside it,” Metro Health Immunization Clinic Supervisor Martha Groomer told KSAT.

“We do know all it takes is for one person to be infected, and it spreads,” said Groomer.

Students “have to register to be at that school or to be part of the education curriculum,” continued Groomer. Schools “will be asking for an immunization record, so they will know.”

Dallas County Health and Human Services reports that the number of vaccine doses administered by the county’s child vaccine program is down by nearly 50% this year, according to CBS Dallas/Fort Worth. The county’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) program reported 49,506 doses of vaccines administered from January to July last year. This year, the number is 25,162.

Across Texas, the drop has been slightly less at 44%, according to the Houston Chronicle.  

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Exemptions for reasons of conscience

Although childhood vaccinations are mandatory in the state, Texas is one of 16 states that allows parents to opt out of vaccine requirements by filing a conscientious exemption.

With discussions about whether a future COVID-19 vaccine, if successfully developed, would be mandatory for participation in public life, a growing number of parents are on high alert about government immunization requirements.

In North Texas, the rate of conscientious exemptions to vaccine requirements is above average for the state, with some schools reporting that more than five percent of their student body took advantage of the state’s permission to forgo immunizations. 

With so many families already reluctant to have vaccinations administered to their kids, state health officials worry that the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine will be similarly avoided.

The founder of Texans for Vaccine Choice, Jackie Schlegel, told CBS Dallas/Fort Worth that since the outset of the pandemic earlier this year, her grassroots political group has gone from 10,000 members to more than 14,000.

For years, the group has advocated for the right of parents to decide whether or not their children receive school immunization shots.

Schlegel told CBS Dallas/Fort Worth that her phone has been “ringing off the hook” with people concerned about a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

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