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2011-2012 Texas Vaccine Exemption Information

The state of Texas in law grants and acknowledges the right of parents to exempt their children from vaccination requirements for day care, school, and college for reasons of conscience including a religious belief or for medical reasons.  In 2003, the Texas legislature passed changes to the statutes expanding the reasons a parent can claim an exemption but the Health Department has questionably also increased the bureaucratic red tape necessary for claiming the exemption.  There are specific procedures for requesting an official state form and submitting it to the school or for completing a medical exemption that all take some time so please don't wait until the last minute to get your papers in order.

For everyone claiming an exemption for the first time after 9/1/03, you must comply with the new law. If you've submitted an old religious exemption prior to 9/1/03, you are grandfathered under the old law (see notes below) and do not need a new form. The vaccine exemption forms for reasons of conscience including a religious belief are only for students claiming a vaccine exemption for the first time after 9/1/03 when the new law went into effect.  If you need to request forms from the state health department, you can do it by fax, mail, personal visit, or through an online submission form. If you send your request by mail, we suggest sending it registered mail with a receipt so you can keep track of your request. If you send it by fax, set your fax machine to print out a delivery receipt.  We would like to keep track of the Health Department's processing time. 

According to the Texas Dept. of State Health Services :

Online requests must be made through the web submission form posted at

https://webds.dshs.state.tx.us/immco/

Written requests must be submitted through the U.S. Postal Service, commercial carrier, fax at (512)-776-7544 , or by hand-delivery to:

1946
DSHS Immunization Branch
1100 West 49th Street
Austin, Texas 78756

Hand-delivered requests may be submitted to the DSHS, Immunization Branch, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. ALL affidavit forms will be mailed to you via U.S. Postal Service. No requests will be filled at the time of hand-delivery.

Affidavit form requests will be processed and mailed within one week from the receipt of the request. If additional information is needed in order to process the affidavit, you will be notified;

The letter must include the following information:

  • Full name of each child for whom a form is requested(first, middle, and last);
  • Date of birth of each child for whom a form is requested;
  • Parent or legal guardian's complete return mailing address, including zip code;
  • Number of forms needed for each child (not to exceed five forms per child)

Electronic mail or telephone requests will not be processed.

The official Texas Department of State Health Services affidavit form must be notarized and submitted to school officials. The form must be submitted within 90 days from the date it is notarized.

The school will accept only official affidavit forms developed and issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Immunization Branch. No other forms or reproductions will be allowed.

(SOURCE: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/school/default.shtm#exclusions)

IT IS OUR OPINION THAT PARENTS SHOULD OBTAIN A WRITTEN NOTE FROM THE SCHOOL ACKNOWLEDGING RECEIPT OF THE EXEMPTION FORM. IF THE SCHOOL LOOSES THE FORM THEY CAN KICK YOUR KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL. IF YOU HAVE A WRITTEN RECEIPT FROM THE SCHOOL THAT YOU SUBMITTED THE FORM, YOU CAN PUT THE RESPONSIBILITY BACK ON THE SCHOOL TO GO FIND IT AND KEEP YOUR CHILD IN SCHOOL.  One way to accomplish this would be to photocopy the notarized form before you submit it for the first time and ask the nurse or someone in the office to sign the photocopy and date it with next to a statement that says "I acknowledge that the original of this form was submitted to (name of school) on (date)."

It is also our opinion that the department is outside of the law requiring that parents submit their children's names to get a form especially since the law required the department to develop a blank form.  They are also exceeding their authority in the statute by putting 2 year expirations on the new forms as the statute specifies no expiration.

If you would like to volunteer to help get the law further changed to prevent this behavior, please contact us through our website.  Until this is changed legislatively, these are the procedures the DSHS has set up. It would be great if you could go to the home page of this web site and look up your state representative and senator and let them know that these arbitrary expirations placed by the health department on your exemption are harassment and need to be stopped.

Ignorant school officials around the state have denied kids admission to school if they have an old religious exemption affidavit saying they need one of the new forms from the health department.  THIS IS NOT TRUE! If you hear this is happening in your district, please call the superintendent's office and give them this link to the state health department where it clearly says you don't need a new form. Also, when you transfer schools, the old religious exemption letter is still part of your child's record and you do not need a new one as long as it was part of your child's record prior to 9/1/03.  

http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/docs/faq_exemption.pdf

On the bottom of page 2, it says:

Q. If a child currently has a religious exemption for vaccinations onfile with the school, do they need to obtain a new vaccineexemption for reasons of conscience affidavit?

A. No. Students who had religious exemptions filed at the school prior to September 1, 2003 do not need a new vaccine exemption affidavit form. The religious exemption on file remains valid.

Also on page 2 it says:

Q. What if my child changes schools?

A. The vaccine exemption affidavit is part of the child's school records and should be sent to the new schoolwith other school records.

Additionally, some schools, daycare facilities and colleges are saying they don't have to accept the exemption.  This is wrong - the law grants parents this right and the schools and daycares can't take this right away.  For your convenience, we've posted links to the state statutes directly below. 

The other option for parents to exempt their child from state immunization requirements is with a medical exemption written by a doctor.  This is intended for families with children with health concerns or a past history of reactions. While this option bypasses the bureaucratic red tape with the conscientious/religious exemption, the pressures on doctors to not write these are great and it may be difficult to get a doctor who acknowledges a vaccine reaction to substantiate that in writing by issuing an exemption.

Regardless, most families and physicians are not aware the exemption statute was greatly expanded to make it much easier for a doctor to write to protect a child from future reactions. No longer do they have to say the vaccine would definitively harm the child but that it instead poses a risk to the child. Any M.D. or D.O. licensed to practice medicine in the United States can write the letter stating that "in the physician's opinion, the vaccine required poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of the child or any member of the child's household." If the letter also says this is for a lifelong condition, (the condition does not need to be named) the exemption never has to be renewed. Otherwise it has to be renewed annually.  The doctor just needs to write it out on a piece of paper and sign it. In this case, you can keep the original and give the school a copy.    

Here is a sample medical exemption letter:

     Medical Exemption to Immunization 

In my opinion, the required immunizations pose asignificant risk to the health and well-being of     (name of child).  This is a lifelong exemption for lifelong conditions.

     Doctor's name, signature, and date

Regarding the recent requirement that college students get vaccinated for meningitis, the exemption conscientious and medical exemptions apply to this as well.  Look at the links below for reference to the laws granting the exemption to the college meningitis vaccine requirement.

Laws Which Allow For Exclusions from Vaccine Requirements

Children and Education including Colleges:

Day Care:

Health Care Providers:

State of Texas:

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September 29. 2011

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