COLUMNS

Rep. Sheffield discusses vaccines

Staff Writer
Glen Rose Reporter
Rep. J.D. Sheffield

This past year the Ebola cases in Texas and other states caused widespread concern about the possibility of an outbreak of the deadly virus. Fortunately, we live in a time when medicine has advanced to the extent that epidemics are rare and can be controlled through effective, public health measures.

Mumps, Measles, Chickenpox, two forms of Hepatitis, Polio, Diphtheria and a host of other diseases are no longer routine health concerns for the average Texan.

Ideally, we can one day eradicate Ebola and this will likely be accomplished through the use of vaccines.

There has been much discussion about vaccines recently and I understand that this is an issue many people are passionate about and rightfully so. Texans have a right to decide the healthcare you receive. As a doctor, I will work to promote the use of safe vaccines. I also know that individuals may object to receiving vaccinations for medical and non-medical reasons.

Vaccinations work to eradicate diseases when high percentages of the population have been vaccinated for the disease. While the necessary vaccination compliance threshold, or herd immunity, varies by disease, the necessary vaccination percentage is often 95 percent or higher.

Receiving vaccines helps the public as a whole. After the chickenpox vaccine debuted in 1995, deaths from chickenpox dropped by 97 percent. No infants died from chickenpox between 2004 and 2007, even though infants do not receive the vaccine. These infants were protected because a high percentage of other children and adults had received the Chickenpox vaccine.

House Bill 2171 modernizes the state’s existing registry for vaccinations but does not require anyone to be vaccinated. The bill helps to retain immunizations records to benefit both the individual and public.

A more complete health record can prevent duplicate vaccinations being administered and cut your cost of healthcare. This will also lessen the cost of state funded healthcare. From a public health perspective, knowing the level of vaccinations helps greatly in response to health crises. House Bill 2171 still allows people to opt out of the state’s immunization registry. The registry also serves as a great tool for parents to keep track of their children’s vaccination records, if they so choose.

I completely respect and understand that this healthcare decision should not be made hastily but with careful consideration. Vaccinations are indeed a powerful tool to protect your health and the health of those around you.

Dr. J.D. Sheffield is a family practice physician elected to the Texas Legislature in 2012. He represents Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba, and Somervell counties.