Parents in Texas appear to be rejecting the idea of immunizing their children against early childhood diseases. The nationwide measles outbreak has swept 14 states, most predominantly in California. The Lone Star state has been lucky so far and has been spared from the outbreak of the virulent virus. Despite this eruption, more Texas parents are saying “no” to inoculating their children from many childhood diseases including the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 102 cases of measles were reported nationally between January 1-30. Only one case was reported in Texas back in July 2014. Dallas County Department of Health & Human Services (DCHHS) Director Zachary Thompson issued a health advisory after the confirmed case was announced last summer in North Texas.
That episode of measles originated from exposure on a trip to Kansas during the July 4 Independence Day weekend. Thompson pointed out that the “two-dose coverage with MMR vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent outbreaks.”
However, the number of school children without childhood vaccinations has risen from 2,314 in the 2003-04 school year to 38,197 in 2013-14, according to the Dallas Morning News. It may look like a large uptick but this only represents less than 1 percent of the statewide school enrollment. Regardless, Thompson told the Dallas Morning News, “Children shouldn’t be opting out of vaccinations,” stating that the reason “we’ve seen the increase in measles cases is due to the unvaccinated children.”
Parents continue to opt-out out of their child’s inoculations by filing “conscientious exemptions” with their public and private schools, the Dallas Morning News also reported. This is a form parents that file at the beginning of a new school year to list each vaccine a student will not receive. This exemption trend is tracked by the state.
The adults are asked to confirm that they understand the risks of not vaccinating and that their child could be excluded from school in the event of an epidemic or public health emergency, the Texas Tribune reported.
Some students are issued waivers for other reasons — like a compromised immune system or allergic reactions to egg additives in the vaccine. Those exemptions are tallied separately.
The Tribune added that state law requires that children at all public and private schools have 10 different immunizations, including for tetanus, measles and pertussis (“whooping cough”). In most states, children are inoculated by kindergarten for most childhood illnesses.
“All but two states — Mississippi and West Virginia — grant exemptions from school immunization requirements on religious grounds. Texas is among 20 states that also waive requirements because of personal beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures,” the Tribune also stated.
In the United States, many childhood illnesses have been eradicated through vaccination — polio, smallpox, whooping cough, mumps, Rubella (German measles), and chicken pox. The measles was considered eliminated by the CDC since the year 2000.
Measles outbreaks have increased nationwide since 2008, which Breitbart News reported. Texas had a measles outbreak in 2013. Twenty-one people came down with the disease approximately 50 miles northwest of Dallas.
Recently, Breitbart California questioned whether the current measles crisis may have stemmed from last summer’s deluge of immigrants that came across the US Southern border, even though the research suggested that many of those minors came from countries and regions that had high rates of immunization.
The Texas outbreak two years ago was triggered by foreign exposure. The majority of more recent US cases have been connected to foreign sources, according to the CDC. Most are readily spread among the under-vaccinated.
The man in Dallas had been infected during a trip to Indonesia and attended a service with hundreds of others at a North Texas mega-church of which he was not a member, WFAA-TV reported. Measles are 90 percent contagious.
Dr. Karen Smith, along with the Tarrant County Health Department, helped stop what could have been the largest measles outbreak in Texas in nearly 20 years. They acted swiftly following the exposure to vaccinate the Eagle Mountain International Church members who attended the service. “Within 72 hours of exposure, an unvaccinated person can get a vaccine and stop the disease,” Smith said.
About 20 babies were too young to receive the vaccine at the time because they were unable to “mount an immune response” so they were instead the given the antibodies. “Parents who’d previously declined to vaccinate their children — especially in the preschool — changed their minds in the face of clear and present danger,” Smith told WFAA.
In the current national outbreak, 99 of the cases were reported in the Golden State, with 65 of those having a connection to the December Disneyland outbreak, according to Breitbart California.
Measles are spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. Symptoms tend to appear 7 to 14 days after contracting the illness; however, it is highly contagious before any symptoms appear. Once out of the incubation stage, the patient will exhibit a high fever, cough, runny nose, red watery eyes and the signature roseola-like red rash. It is only fatal in a minuscule 0.2% of cases, according to About Health.
Doctors recommend children getting two vaccine doses — one at 12 to 15 months old and then at 4 to 6 years old. According to CBS Chicago, most adults born in 1957 or later should get at least one measles vaccine, except those who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems.
The question of whether or not to vaccinate has been a raging argument for several years. Celebrity voices like Jenny McCarthy, who blamed her son’s autism on childhood inoculations, and general distrust of mercury and other additives in vaccines has fanned the anti-vaxxer position, although the findings of British researcher, Andrew Wakefield, who first linked the MMR vaccine to autism spectrum-like symptoms in the late 1990’s, was later discredited for faking data in an “elaborate fraud,” Breitbart News reported.
In a stroke of irony, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which bankrolled the Common Core State Standards, is one of the world’s leading sponsors of vaccine research, according to Forbes Magazine.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.