Health & Science

Health experts say there has been a decline in vaccinations among kids in Texas

Reasons for the decline in vaccinations include lack of access to healthcare, parents not wanting to take their children to the pediatrician in fear of their kids becoming sick, and misinformation. 

A 17-year-old receives a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic during a back to school event offering school supplies, Covid-19 vaccinations, face masks, and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA in Los Angeles, California on August 7, 2021.

Health experts in Texas said they are concerned fewer children are getting vaccinated for the new school year, and that some parents are getting incorrect information online about vaccines.

The experts also worry that some diseases like measles and polio will make a comeback. Recently, the first case of polio arrived in New York City after 10 years.

Dr. Bob Sanborn is the President and CEO of Children at Risk, he said the state legislative session in January could bring new laws about mandated vaccines.

"We want to draw parents’ attention, legislative attention to this issue that what we’re doing now is the right thing," he said. "We want to keep our children healthy by making sure these regular childhood vaccinations are still happening in our state."

Sanborn added that if vaccines are not mandated in Texas, as many as 30% of children would be unvaccinated, which could put many kids "in danger."

According to the Immunization Partnership, 60,000 kindergartners across the State of Texas are behind on vaccinations and 85,000 children are not vaccinated.

"Between the last pre-pandemic school year and the start of last school year, we have seen a dramatic decline in vaccinations for kindergartners," said Terri Burke, Executive Director for the Immunization Partnership.

Burke said there are many reasons for the decline in vaccinations like the lack of access to healthcare, parents not wanting to take their children to the pediatrician in fear of their kids becoming sick, and misinformation.

"Vaccinations shouldn't be one of the things they're worried about, vaccinations are the easier thing they can do to protect their children from all of the things they're worried about."

She said she's also concerned about the passing of bills regarding vaccines at next year’s state legislative session that could affect children and public school enrollment.

"There are groups planning to introduce between 50-60 anti-vaccine bills in our next legislative session," she said. "They're organizing to block any vaccine in Texas that is less than five years after the FDA's approval."

Glenn Fennelly is the Chair of Pediatrics at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, he said the best way to keep children healthy and safe is to get them vaccinated.

“We should be fearing these diseases, not fearing vaccines,” he said. "The vaccines are safe and they’re effective.”

He said many of the diseases like polio, whooping cough, influenza, meningitis, and measles, which is the one of the major killers of children, have severe effects on children which is why keeping children vaccinated is a top priority among doctors.

"Vaccines save about three million lives each year globally," he said.

Dr. Jason Turke is the consultant for Cook's Children's Pediatric Keller Parkway, he said there's a lot of misinformation and disinformation that is stopping parents from vaccinating their kids.

"Unfortunately we are seeing an influence from groups having an effect upon well-intended parents that simply want to do the right thing for their children," he said.

Turke also said that he is regretful that he is "seeing more and more indicators that we’re going to see more instances of diseases."

According to health experts in Houston, immigrant families who have migrated to the Houston area from other countries are the first ones to have their children vaccinated and to make sure they’re up to date.

Thirty percent of children in the State of Texas are immigrants or come from immigrant families.

"They often come from countries where they have seen first hand the devastation of these diseases that are easily preventable with a vaccine," said Dr. Vicki Regan, Vice President of Women’s and Children’s Service Line at Children’s Memorial Hospital.

She said people are more trusting to information from the internet than their doctors now.

“The evidence we have can show you, it’s been proven many, many years ago that these vaccines are safe and effective.”

Regan said social media has played a big part in a lot of information and she encourages families to speak with their children’s pediatricians with any concerns.

"Bring that data that you are reading on the internet to your physician or pediatrician office and have a discussion about what fears are preventing you from vaccinating your child."

Before the pandemic, doctors said there were measles cases in Mexico, but the rates have declined.

This story was updated on 8/24/22 at 10:53 a.m. to correct the name of the Immunization Partnership.

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