Measles cases have substantially increased in the United States in the past six months due to children not being vaccinated.
From Jan. 1 to May 24, 2019, 940 individual cases of measles have already been confirmed in 24 states, including Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 60 cases were reported just last week and the majority of cases are located in New York and its suburbs. “This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000,” the CDC states.
Most measles outbreaks are linked to travelers who visited other countries like Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring. The travelers ended up bringing the measles back to the United States.
The CDC also states that the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.
In Stephenville ISD alone, 54 students were not vaccinated this past school year according to information provided by SISD head nurse Michelle Stilwell.
Texas law allows two exceptions for students not to get vaccinated: (a) physicians to write medical exemption statements that the vaccine(s) required would be medically harmful or injurious to the health and well-being of the child or household member and (b) parents/guardians to choose an exemption from immunization requirements for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief.
From K-12 in Stephenville ISD, at least one student per grade is not vaccinated with 48 exemptions for conscience and six exemptions for medical.
“Some parents choose not to immunize their kids but those kids are protected by herd immunity. In other words, they're protected because all of the other kids are protected,” said Dr. Kelly Doggett, a local physician. “I'm a strong advocate and a strong proponent of vaccinations, but you have to respect people’s rights to do what they choose. I've heard of some doctor’s offices that won’t let you in if you’re not vaccinated, but we don’t do that. We don’t deny people healthcare because their kids aren’t vaccinated. That’s controversial in and of itself.”
The Texas Health and Human Services has a list of every Texas school district with a percentage rate for each vaccination: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningococcal, Polio, Tdap/Td, Varicella and MMR, the vaccine used to prevent measles. The documents are separated by kindergarten and seventh grade.
The percentage of students in kindergarten around the Stephenville area who received the MMR vaccine are:
• 94 percent – Glen Rose
• 95 percent – Hico
• 98 percent – Dublin
• 97 percent – Comanche
• 95 percent – Granbury
• 100 percent – Lingleville
• 100 percent – Huckabay
• 95 percent – Bluff Dale
The percentage of students in seventh grade who received the MMR vaccine are:
• 98 percent – Glen Rose
• 96 percent – Hico
• 99 percent – Dublin
• 99 percent – Comanche
• 97 percent – Granbury
• 100 percent – Lingleville
• 94 percent – Huckabay
• 78 percent – Bluff Dale
With the number of measles cases increasing every week, one can speculate about states limiting the vaccination exemptions for children in the future, but Doggett does not predict that will happen in Texas.
“What would that lead to? You can say ‘Okay, well your kid can’t go to school’ or ‘You’re going to homeschool your kid’ and you hate to do that to a kid too but there’s federal law that could override the state. The feds could say, ‘Well, that’s unconstitutional. You can’t do that.’ I think it would be a big fight and a big controversy, but I just don’t see that happening any time unless there’s a major public health risk,” he said.
So far, California, Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states in the U.S. that have a medical exemption only from vaccines.