April 2023

Promoting Vaccine Information in the Texas Legislature

In 2022, the Foundation announced a new grant initiative that seeks to support the innovative and practical integration of bioethics into policy. Among the first of these Bridging Bioethics Research & Policymaking (BBRP) grants is “Disseminating vaccine information and increasing equity during the 2023 Texas state legislative session,” helmed by PI Kirstin R.W. Matthews, PhD, of Rice University.

Prof. Matthews and her research group “became interested in vaccine policy…during the 2017 Texas legislative session on vaccines,” she told the Foundation. Research into that session revealed recurring themes of “misinformation and myths regarding vaccines,” in addition to proliferating “views that public health efforts were partisan or political instead of relying on evidence and best practices.” In their BBRP project, Prof. Matthews and her team have worked to “dispel [these] existing myths and promote legislators to enact legislation to increase vaccine access and equity” by directly providing key policy- and decision-makers in the Texas legislature with accessible, high-quality information to help address these issues.

To do this, the team visited the Texas state capitol in Austin during the 2023 session. The first visit, on March 29, included a large group of undergraduate and graduate students from local universities who visited legislative offices and talked with members and staff members about vaccines. A second visit, several weeks later, involved “a smaller group of policy scholars and students who visited key offices associated with public health committees,” Prof. Matthews said. 

To help disseminate this work and increase the project’s impact, Prof. Matthews, the research team, and affiliated groups shared their visits on social media.

Of the event, Prof. Matthews said, “we were…pleased that regardless of their stance, offices that we visited were friendly and engaged.” Going forward, she and the team hope that the research project will continue to promote equity in access to vaccines among Texans by improving access to quality information among its legislators. To learn more about this work, visit the Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy’s Vaccine Project webpage and the Vaccines Cause Adults campaign.