Texas’ public health system is riddled with dangerous gaps and vulnerabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic is a tough lesson on what happens when our state doesn’t have effective policies for the efficient delivery and administration of life-saving vaccines.

The Immunization Partnership joins all Texans in urging the 87th Texas Legislature to take the lead in restoring our state from the ravages of the pandemic by protecting our citizens and our economy from further catastrophe.

The partnership offers a practical four-part solution to help Texas recover from the pandemic, close the unnecessary gaps for all vaccine-preventable diseases and end this pandemic. We believe the state must build a more functional immunization registry to give us accurate data; reduce vaccine-preventable disease spread in congregant-living facilities such as nursing homes; increase vaccine access and equity for all Texans; and support vaccine research and development in Texas.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the long-overdue need for a more functional and efficient immunization registry. By improving functionality of ImmTrac2, our existing registry, we can capture accurate immunization data, ensure equitable and wide distribution of life-saving vaccines and reduce administrative burden to allow providers to focus on vaccinating Texans against COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

As a society, we have a responsibility to reduce the rapid spread of vaccine- preventable diseases among the highly vulnerable individuals in congregant living facilities, such as nursing homes and correctional facilities. Texas can save lives and save millions in taxpayer dollars if these facilities offered vaccines to their residents and staff. These residents also deserve the opportunity to join ImmTrac2, so they can better keep track of their health records and know their protection status.

The death rate from COVID-19 among the Black and Hispanic population is 2.8 times the rate of the non-Hispanic white population. We should collect data concerning vaccine distribution and vaccination rates for all ages, gender, race, ethnicities and other key demographics to better inform public health officials where to strengthen outreach and educational efforts and to take appropriate action.

Texas should invest in vaccine research and development right here at home, so we are at the forefront of this critical field. We should create a state endowment to support Texas-based universities, corporations, nonprofits and collaboratives to conduct vaccine research and development. This vital seed funding, which will attract large federal and private research grants, is an investment in the future of Texans, our health and economy.

Our legislators have difficult decisions to make when balancing limited resources with critical needs. We believe they have no greater responsibility than ensuring the health and safety of all Texans.

Now is the time to act. We don’t have a second chance to respond to the pandemic. We need our elected leaders to step up to protect the public’s health and get Texas back to work and school. We encourage all Texans to join us in contacting our legislators to ask them to adopt our proposals and to provide the leadership and political courage we need to put us on the road to recovery. Vaccines make Texas work.

Allison N. Winnike is president and CEO of The Immunization Partnership, a statewide nonprofit that aims to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases.

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