The idea of so-called vaccine passports – documents that people could be required to show to prove they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before traveling or participating in certain activities – has received strong reaction in some quarters. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott opposes any such move in the state of Texas. But there might be room for a much narrower approach – one that has been discussed in the Texas Capitol for the last few legislative sessions.
State Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, has authored a bill focused on immunization tracking. She told Texas Standard information about an individual’s vaccination history would be kept in a secure registry, accessible only to the individual and to health care providers. She says it’s not a “vaccine passport” to be used to gain access to businesses or travel.
Right now, vaccine information is only added to the state’s existing registry if individuals choose to do so.
“We’re one of only four states in the nation that has required folks to opt into a [state vaccine registry] system,” Howard said.
Having a “robust and accurate registry” is particularly important as COVID-19 immunizations roll out so that planners can understand where more vaccines are needed and which populations have been successfully vaccinated.
An effective vaccine registry would also help individuals manage their vaccine information, and know when booster shots are needed and when.
For the registry itself, an overhaul and greater participation would allow the state to save money and to acquire more timely information about vaccination progress.
“What it does also is it allows the state of Texas to modernize its registry system and be in comportment with the standards of registries throughout the nation,” she said. “We are having to retrofit, if you will, our registry to serve this outdated system.”
Howard is hopeful that the attention being paid to vaccinations because of COVID-19 will increase her bill’s chances of passage in the Legislature.
“We have tremendous support from the medical community to get this done, and I have a lot of support from my colleagues,” Howard said. “Rep. Stephanie Klick, who is also a nurse, on the Republican side – we’re working on this together.”