Dallas legislator wants to reduce vaccine exemptions

A Dallas legislator will introduce a bill to tighten exemptions for childhood vaccines in Texas.

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said the goal is to reduce the loopholes in the current vaccine rules for children who attend public schools in the state.

"We're trying to just make sure if you want to send your kids to public school, that you're going to get them properly immunized so you don't bring these diseases to the school," Villalba said.

In Texas there are 4 exemptions from being vaccinated: if a student has a medical condition, active-duty military, religious reasons or conscientious objections. Villalba said his bill would eliminate the religious and conscientious exemptions.

"We believe the loophole is much too large for those two exemptions to protect our students from what we're seeing around the rest of the country – the re-emergence of diseases that have been eradicated for decades," Villalba said.

The numbers of conscientious objectors have grown in the past decade-plus, mostly attributed to a now discredited study that linked vaccinations to autism.

Less than one percent of Dallas County students have opted out of required vaccines according to state statistics. Collin and Denton counties are also about one percent. Denton county has an opt-out rate of more than four percent.

Villalba said he's already gotten some pushback on his bill, especially from those who believe the religious exemptions should remain.

"Any time you have a measure like this where it could be considered controversial, there will be objections," Villalba said. "But I think the protection of our children and the safety of our children is much too important not to take the action that we're taking."