State lawmakers in Austin plan to consider ways in the upcoming legislative session to reduce the number of unvaccinated children in Texas.
"If we're asked, we'll definitely go down to Austin," said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. "We'll take a position as health directors throughout the state to support immunization."
Compared to other states, Texas has among the highest number of unvaccinated kids in public schools.
"It's critical in the state of Texas that we have more children immunized, and parents should encourage that because we're talking about herd immunity, which protects not only the children, but our community," Thompson said.
In the last school year, nearly 45,000 students in Texas filed for conscientious exemptions from the required immunizations, citing religious or other reasons.
Now state lawmakers will consider more than half a dozen measures taking aim at the exemptions, among them proposals which would require parents take online courses or visit a doctor to get an exemption.
Opponents argue the measures would make it harder to get exemptions, erode parental rights and all but mandate immunizations.
"We are not anti-vaccine," said Rebecca Hardy, of Keller, with the group Texans for Vaccine Choice. "We are a group of parents that have the fundamental belief that ultimately it's parents, along with their chosen medical provider, that are best equipped to make decisions for their children."
"Texans for Vaccine Choice supports every Texan's access to and use of any vaccines that they want to use," Hardy added. "Our position is that parents have the fundamental right to direct their children's health care without government interference."