You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Bills target high rates of Texas schoolchildren lacking vaccinations


Highlights

Among 25 most populous Texas counties, Travis County had the highest rate of nonmedical vaccine exemptions.

Williamson and Hays counties were among the top five.

Lawmakers have filed bills to change from opting in to opting out of vaccinations.

Among the state’s most populous counties, Travis County has the highest percentage of schoolchildren who are exempted from vaccinations for nonmedical reasons, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Immunization Partnership, an Austin-based nonprofit that promotes vaccinations, reported that in the 2015-16 school year, 3,844 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in Travis County, or roughly 2.3 percent of students, filed nonmedical exemptions to vaccinations that help prevent such diseases as polio, hepatitis, meningitis, mumps, measles and rubella. Hays and Williamson counties are third and fifth on the list, respectively.

“It is really a no-brainer,” state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said during a news conference Wednesday. “We can prevent diseases. We can prevent death if we have appropriate immunizations.”

READ: Personal belief waivers to vaccinations triple in Texas over six years

Statewide last school year, 44,716 students were exempted from at least one vaccine requirement for nonmedical reasons, which include moral, religious or personal beliefs. The latest number is a 19-fold increase from the 2003-04 school year, when nonmedical exemptions were first allowed. Nonmedical exemptions tend to surpass the number of medical exemptions each year.

Howard has filed bills to be considered next year that would require students to opt-out of the state’s immunization registry called ImmTrac rather than opt-in and physicians to counsel parents on vaccinations before they obtain an exemption.

Jamie Schanbaum, a 28-year-old Austin resident who attended the event Wednesday, said that if parents knew more about vaccinations, they wouldn’t avoid them. Schanbaum lost her legs and fingers to meningitis eight years ago when she was a University of Texas student, she said. She successfully pushed for a law in 2011 that requires every entering Texas college student to receive a meningococcal vaccine or opt out.

“Like most people, I didn’t know what meningitis was or what it could lead to. I watched my limbs turn from red rash to purple to black. I didn’t know if I was going to survive. If people knew about meningitis more, I don’t think there would be a question to opt-out of the vaccine,” she said.

NEWS STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX: Click here to get our Morning Headlines email

Last year, the Home School Legal Defense Association opposed a similar bill that would have required physicians to counsel parents before deciding against vaccines, saying that it would diminish the parental rights of home-schooled children. The bill, filed by Howard, didn’t get a committee hearing — the first step in the process of moving a bill forward

Some anti-vaccine organizations and parents believe vaccines cause autism, although studies don’t support that assertion. A 1998 research paper that triggered a worldwide scare over autism and vaccines has been debunked, and the journal that published the article has retracted it.

Objections to the vaccines include concerns about the safety of their ingredients, the frequency of vaccinations in small children and side effects.

Messages left with Texas Health Freedom Coalition, Texans for Vaccine Choice and Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education weren’t returned Wednesday.

Public health officials stress that while vaccines are safe, none is completely effective or free of side effects.

State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, also has filed four bills related to vaccinations, including one that would allow teens 14 and older to provide their own consent to obtain the vaccination against the human papillomavirus, which can cause throat cancer in men and cervical cancer in women.

“The science is 100 percent on the side of those who advocate for widespread immunizations to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases,” Davis said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Don’t worry, Whataburger isn’t closing all its stores in 2018
Don’t worry, Whataburger isn’t closing all its stores in 2018

That sound you just heard was all of Texas letting out a collective sigh of relief. Despite what you may have seen on social media, Whataburger is not closing all its stores next year. Joining the battle against fake news, the beloved Texas-based fast food chain addressed the article Wednesday, reassuring Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit-lovers that...
Travis County clerk’s office phones, state judiciary websites down, officials say

The Travis County clerk’s office is reporting that its phone system is down, officials said via Twitter at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The office said it was trying to fix the technical issues as soon as possible. The Travis County clerk’s office, which handles volumes of legal documents, was not alone wrestling with tech problems. Courts across...
St. David’s Foundation awards $33 million in grants for health programs
St. David’s Foundation awards $33 million in grants for health programs

10:20 a.m. update: The St. David’s Foundation, the nonprofit charity of its namesake hospital network, will renew grants worth $33 million to programs that have extended a safety net for low-income individuals. “That’s a lot of zeroes, and we feel so great about it,” foundation board chairman Peter Pincoffs said of the multimillion-dollar...
Deputies: Mother locks 11-year-old in car, sets it on fire
Deputies: Mother locks 11-year-old in car, sets it on fire

Authorities arrested a 48-year-old woman on Tuesday after she was accused of binding her 11-year-old son’s wrists, locking him in a car and setting it on fire at a Michigan cemetery, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies and firefighters were called around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday by the suspect’s 50-year-old husband...
Immigrants United to announce campaign to protect families
Immigrants United to announce campaign to protect families

Immigrants United, an Austin-based nonprofit group, will announce plans Wednesday for a campaign to educate unauthorized Texas families ahead of Sept. 1, when Senate Bill 4, the state law banning “sanctuary cities,” will take effect. Church leaders and immigration attorneys will be among the speakers at the 9 a.m. news conference at the...
More Stories