According to a national study published in the Public Library of Science, Plano and Fort Worth are hot spots for the anti-vaccine movement. Houston and Austin also make the list.
With Collin and Tarrant Counties combined, in the 2015-2016 school year, nearly one-thousand kids took the philosophical exemption. Texas is one of 18 states that allows it. 12 have seen an increase in families using the exemption. Collin County's health director said she's alarmed by the trend, especially when it comes to once-eradicated diseases making a comeback.
There was a confirmed case of measles at Plano West High School last year, a measles outbreak in Ellis County last January and a mumps outbreak in Cedar Hill in 2017. Health officials said they're surprised to see the numbers grow in educated areas. They encourage people with concerns to ask them questions.
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“They can talk to their doctors, they can talk to the health department if they have any misinformation and that can help them believe in vaccinations and get their children vaccinated,” said Dr. Jawaid Asghar, an epidemiologist for Collin County.
Collin County’s health director said she understands parents have the right to opt out, but she believes in the event of a local outbreak, unvaccinated kids should be required to stay home. Diseases like measles can be deadly for those with weakened immune systems who are unable to get the vaccine, like newborns or cancer patients. It can cause complications like pneumonia or encephalitis.
Denton County, though not labeled as a hot spot in the report, also had a noticeable exemption rate for the 2015-2016 school year. 492 kids opted out due to philosophical reasons.