Texas has participated in the Federal Vaccines for Children Program since its inception in 1994. This legislation guarantees vaccines are available at no cost to providers, in order to immunize children who meet eligibility requirements.

There are more than 3,000 Texas providers enrolled in the state’s program, and yet Texas leads the nation in the number of uninsured and under-insured children. Many of these children are not receiving the complete series of immunizations required to protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio.

We fear COVID-19 will be another preventable disease added to that list.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report some children might be unvaccinated because of choices made by parents, whereas lack of access to health care or health insurance may be factors for others. That’s a concern, because vaccinations have saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S. and prevented millions of hospitalizations over the years, according to the CDC.

And it is a growing worldwide trend. The World Health Organization has declared vaccine hesitancy — resisting due to safety fears, complacency about infectious disease, or difficulty accessing vaccinations — as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

Texas is doing its part to compound that problem. The state is one of several that allow families to opt out of immunizations for religious or “conscientious” reasons.

Fortunately, volunteers with the Deep East Texas Partnership are stepping in to try to help.

The partnership will begin to hold vaccination clinics for children in our area as soon as the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine receives FDA EUA approval for children aged 12-17, according to Sharon Shaw, Angelina County & Cities Health District administrator. “We expect this to happen in the next few weeks,” she said.

Clinics for adolescents will be scheduled at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center on select dates. Vaccines for this age group also will be available at the ACCHD facility from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Shaw said.

The Children’s Clinic is partnering with the health district and has taken an active role in promoting the COVID-19 vaccine for children when they become eligible.

Dr. Jeffrey Glass of The Children’s Clinic said studies show the COVID-19 vaccine works even better in adolescents than adults. “When they studied the vaccine in children 12-15 years old, not only did the teens have a stronger immune response to the vaccine, but none of the patients who received the vaccine got infected with COVID.”

Glass said the side effects of the vaccine in adolescents are similar to those in adults. Studies show the most common side effects are pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain.

“Despite the decreasing incidence, this virus is not going away.’’ Glass said. ‘‘The only way out of this pandemic is with vaccination of as many people as possible before new strains evolve.

“It’s a race that we can win if we all work together.”

Glass said patients or parents with concerns about side effects should speak with their pediatrician or a doctor they trust in order to get accurate and truthful information.

He’s right. Immunizations are absolutely the best way to prevent COVID-19 — or an outbreak of any number of terrible diseases that could claim the life of your child or ours.

We find it unconscionable that a parent would not have their child vaccinated.