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Local state board of education member pushes for vaccine requirement

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A Valley representative for the Texas Board of Education is pushing for the COVID-19 vaccine to become a requirement for some students.

District 2 state board education member Ruben Cortez says he wants the COVID-19 vaccine to be part of the required shots for students 16 and older.

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Cortez officially submitted that request on Monday in a letter to the Texas Commission of Health and Human Services.

In his letter to the commission, Cortez urges that the Pfizer vaccine be part of the required school immunizations effective immediately.

READ ALSO: State Board of Education member from Brownsville addresses Abbott over Covid concerns  

Cortez also pointing out the department's authority to modify the list of shots required, saying “Texas law... Authorizes the department of state health services to require immunizations against additional diseases as a requirement for admission to any elementary or secondary school. This authority does not require the governor's approval."

Read the full letter below:

August 30, 2021

Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD

Texas Department of State Health Services

1100 W. 49th St.

Austin, TX 78756

Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young

Health and Human Services Commission

4601 W. Guadalupe St.

Austin, TX 78751

CC: Commissioner Mike Morath

Texas Education Agency

1701 N. Congress Ave.

Austin, Texas 78701

Dear Commissioners,

As the number of Texans hospitalized with COVID-19 surpasses the previous peak from January 2020, it is impossible to deny that we are a state in crisis. Our hospitals are beyond capacity and our brave health care workers are at a breaking point. This time, our children are at the greatest risk.

Hospitals across the state are out of pediatric intensive care beds as more children each day become critically ill. This past week, Houston reported its first death of a child with no preexisting conditions. As I write this, millions of children are returning to classrooms where Gov. Abbott has banned the very mitigation strategies that have proven most effective at keeping them safe.

It is clear that the governor has abandoned his duties.

For decades, Texas schools have required immunizations against diphtheria, rubella, mumps, and tetanus, as well as other diseases. Texas law under Sec. 38.001, Texas Education Code, authorizes the Department of State Health Services to “require immunizations against additional diseases as a requirement for admission to any elementary or secondary school.” This authority does not require the governor’s approval.

Sec. 531.003, Texas Government Code, states that the goal of the Health and Human Services Commission is to “promote the health of the people of this state by reducing the incidence of disease and disabling conditions.” Since the governor has forsaken this responsibility, it is incumbent on you to take immediate action to protect our children and school employees. Now that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received full FDA approval and more are on the way, I urge you to add COVID-19 to the list of required school immunizations, effective immediately.

Our children are more important than politics. I stand ready to assist you in any way possible.

Sincerely, Ruben Cortez, Jr.

State Board of Education, District 2

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