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Vaccines mandated by state for virtual, in-person learning

Local health officials say it's important for people to stay up to date with their vaccinations to prevent a surge in vaccine-preventable diseases.

SAN ANTONIO — Students across the state will be required to be up to date on their vaccinations, no matter where or how they attend class.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has a notice on its website which states, "school vaccination rules are in effect regardless of whether the education is received via virtual learning or on campus." Though, the agency is still processing conscientious exemption requests.

"It's understandable that parents would have that question, especially if their children aren't going back to school physically and they're learning from home," said Sarah Williams, who works with Metro Health's immunization program. 

Williams said the last thing a community needs is the resurgence of a vaccine-preventable illness in the middle of a pandemic.

"We prevent those diseases because we don't need to see an epidemic in the midst of a pandemic," Williams said.

While the focus is community health, one eyewitness told KENS 5 getting kids up to date with vaccinations can be difficult as some families are without health insurance or have loved ones with compromised immune systems who may be leery of going to the doctor's office.

"We are hearing that there's been a decline in vaccination rates nationwide, but also in San Antonio," Williams said. "That is obviously based on the fact that people are hesitant to go to a doctor's office or a pediatrician, especially if their child is healthy. They don't want to risk exposing their child to something."

While Williams said the fear is understandable, she said many doctors have implemented additional precautions, such as adopting split schedules to treat healthy people for one part of the day and the sick for another.

For those who don't have insurance, Williams said the city is reopening its Eastside Clinic on Monday where people can schedule an appointment to get their vaccinations.

Williams said they are encouraging people to see whether they are eligible for the Texas Vaccines for Children program, which allows for children to receive free or low-cost vaccinations. The city is also urging college bound people to see if they meet the criteria for the Adult Safety Net program, which also provides low-cost vaccinations to adults.

The University of the Incarnate Word also offers free vaccination clinics to certain low income families on Saturdays by appointment only.

On top of that, University Health Systems is hosting a number of mobile clinics at campuses for convenience.