Texas is one of the 18 states that allows parents to exempt their children from school-provided vaccinations for non-medical reasons. In the last decade and change, the amount of students throughout the state who received what is known as a "conscientious" exemption rose from 2,000 to 44,000—a 2,100 percent increase, according to a new analysis of public data by KVUE.
The school with the most exemptions was Austin Waldorf School, a private school in the capital city. Only 37.5 percent of its student body received the full range of vaccinations.
Yes, parents have rights. They also have obligations — to their own children, and to their communities.
The state has its own obligation to protect public health by requiring cheap, effective vaccinations for all children, excepting the very rare cases of medically warranted exemption. The state is supposed to help keep us healthy and safe.
Sadly, in this case, the state doesn't seem to care.
Anti-vaccination views have proliferated in recent years in Texas, especially among a select group of Republican lawmakers.
“I’m the criminal district attorney in San Antonio, Texas. I’m here to tell you that vaccines can and do cause autism," said Nico LaHood in a "documentary" directed by a discredited anti-vaccine doctor. Both Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott have publicly supported the opt-out law.
At the same time, according to Texas Monthly,
Texas has experienced an uptick of contagious diseases typically targeted by vaccines. In 2001, Texas had 615 confirmed cases of whooping cough. From 2005 to 2015, Texas averaged nearly 2,400 cases per year (since peaking at 3,985 whooping cough cases in 2013, that figure decreased each of the past two years; 2015 had 1,504 cases). And 38 total cases of measles were reported between 2013 and 2015 in Texas, including a 2013 outbreak infecting 21 people who attended a vaccine-skeptical megachurch outside of Dallas. Texas had already recorded its first measles case of the year just a few weeks into 2016 when a Plano ISD student was infected with the virus in January, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.