EDITORIAL

Anti-vaxxers want to expand vaccine exemptions to Texas day cares. We can't let that happen

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Baby-boomers and Generation X no doubt recall the days when they had to stay home from school and away from friends when they contracted chicken pox, measles or mumps. 

For many people, the vaccines for these diseases came as a relief. Now, anti-vaxxer organizations such as Texans For Vaccine Choice are not only taking advantage of Texas law to push conscientious exemptions for kids in Texas public schools, they are also arguing state-regulated day care centers should be subject to the same exemptions.

That's madness.

It's bad enough that it's taken nearly 20 years to undo the damage caused by discredited physician-researcher Andrew Wakefield and his baloney paper linking vaccines and autism. Now, anti-vaxxers use terms such as "parental choice," "medical freedom" and other rhetoric to try to sell bogus fears as a form of limited government instead of acknowledging it's a repudiation of scientific fact: Vaccines are the best way to prevent infectious diseases from spreading.

Texas is only one of 17 states (and D.C.) that allow parents of public school students a philosophical (read personal belief) exemption from vaccinating their children. Unfortunately, that number continues to increase. In the 2010-11 school year, the percentage of public school students with a conscientious exemption was 0.45 percent. By the 2017-18 school year, that figure grew to 1.07 percent.

People may argue that 1 percent of a public school population of nearly 5.5 million isn't all that much. But scientists agree that the herd immunity rate required to keep people safe from disease is anywhere from 90 percent to 95 percent. Right now, Texas school districts fall within that range, but as the number of exemptions grows, the herd immunity is put more at risk.

Applying the personal exemption standard to child care facilities would be a dangerous road to take. The CDC recommends that children do not start to get vaccines for measles until they reach at least 12 months of age. Should parents have to risk their kids getting the measles at such a young age from older, unvaccinated children? We don't believe so.

Texas was one of 25 states last year to report cases of the measles. Medical experts and researchers say that the continued growth in the number of parents not getting their children vaccinated is increasing the risk of a measles outbreak. One doctor said, "It is really not a question of whether these outbreaks will occur but when."

We should be thankful that technology and medical advances managed to bring us out of the dark ages. It's remarkable that in the early 1960s, measles cases numbered in the hundreds of thousands. By the early 1990s, measles practically vanished. Now, it's slowly starting to make a comeback.

Texans For Vaccine Choice is only trying to make things worse, and their position that personal exemptions are allowed for child care facilities is something Texans cannot accept.

— Reprinted with permission

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