Did Texas Children's Hospital announce in December 2023 that it would "no longer treat unvaccinated children"? No, that's not true: A hospital spokesperson told Lead Stories that this claim is "not true." Even if it were true, it would be illegal. Texas enacted a state law, effective September 1, 2023, that prohibited clinicians from refusing services to patients enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) based on their vaccination status.
The claim originated from a post (archive) shared on December 6, 2023, that claimed the hospital announced that "it will no longer treat unvaccinated children." The post included a screenshot from a thread shared to X on December 6, 2023, (archived here) that suggested the hospital pediatric clinic in Houston issued the following statement "in an email that was sent to a patient":
We respect parents' right to make medical decisions for their children. If you do not consent to having your child vaccinated against these diseases, we respectfully ask that you establish care with another provider who is comfortable caring for an unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated child within the next sixty (60) days. We will continue to care for your child during this time period. If you change your mind and do plan to fully vaccinate and your child, we ask that you establish a vaccination schedule with your child's pediatrician to have your child fully immunized as quickly as possible.
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(Source: merissahansen.com screenshot taken on Sat Dec 15 03:14:01 2023 UTC)
In an email received on December 15, 2023, a spokesperson for Texas Children's Hospital told Lead Stories that it is "not true" that the institution had announced it would no longer treat unvaccinated children. As of this publication, immunizations were not a determining factor in whether a child would be admitted to care, the hospital spokesperson said.
However, Lead Stories could not verify the legitimacy of the purported email, including the veracity of its contents. The focus of this fact check is on whether Texas Children's Hospital announced it would no longer provide care for unvaccinated children. It did not.
The thread on X, featuring the quote, was shared by Dr. Mary Bowden, a Texas doctor who has sparred with officials at other hospitals over treatment of unvaccinated patients. In June 2023, the Texas Medical Board filed charges against Bowden over her use of ivermectin in COVID-19 treatments and she was accused of violating Texas standards of care in 2021.
Bowden confirmed to Lead Stories in an email received on December 13, 2023, that she had personally seen the email she quotes in her post, but declined to provide further evidence to corroborate its existence, citing HIPPA concerns. Lead Stories provided an email address for Bowden to give to the purported sender, but no response was received by the time this fact check was published.
Texas Children's Hospital did not respond, either, to our request for further information regarding the email Bowden claims to have seen, including whether it had been sent by hospital staff or practitioners.
Texas enacted a state law, effective September 1, 2023, that prohibited clinicians caring for patients enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) from refusing health care services based on their vaccination status. This is not unique to Texas. The American Medical Association also notes that a physician should not refuse a patient simply because they are not vaccinated or have declined to be vaccinated.