Dallas County requests waiver for state vaccine law

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on January 15, 2013 at 5:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 15 at 6:55 PM

DALLAS -- The Dallas County Health Department doled out more than 700 flu shots Monday, but dozens of would-be patients had to be turned away because of state regulations prohibiting county health departments from giving vaccines to insured children. 

According to eligibility changes in the Texas Vaccines for Children Program, "Children who have private insurance that covers vaccines will no longer be eligible for TVFC vaccines in public health department clinics, but instead will be referred to their medical home for immunization services." The changes went into place on Jan. 1, 2012. 

"When there's an epidemic, an outbreak, then no one should be denied vaccine," said Dallas County Health & Human Services Director Zachary Thompson.

Thompson has asked the state to temporarily waive the restrictions Monday. Tuesday morning, he asked county commissioners at the weekly meeting to help apply pressure to the state on behalf of taxpayers, who are asking for help finding potentially life-saving vaccine.

"We have one local hospital who has contacted us to share [vaccine] with us [because] they are running low on pediatric flu vaccine," Thompson said, "And I can't do it based on the state law."

Tarrant County health officials tell News 8 they've also been told it's not an option, unless the state declares an emergency.

"At this point, the State of Texas has no plans of declaring an emergency," said Dr. Anita Kurian, Tarrant County's chief epidemiologist.

Many hope health officials in Austin will reconsider, based on a serious flu outbreak that has already claimed four young North Texas lives.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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