Houston Matters

Why Are Some Houstonians Choosing Not to Vaccinate?

As of Friday (2/20/15), there are 141 reported cases of the measles in the United States this year, and 98 are from California. (Just one, so far, is from Texas). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most who have contracted the measles were not vaccinated. Health officials have taken the opportunity to […]

As of Friday (2/20/15), there are 141 reported cases of the measles in the United States this year, and 98 are from California. (Just one, so far, is from Texas). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most who have contracted the measles were not vaccinated. Health officials have taken the opportunity to demonstrate how vaccinations not only protect children from disease, they protect the rest of the general public as well.

And yet, long-standing myths about vaccines causing certain diseases, which have been repeatedly debunked, persist. And some people still refuse to vaccinate their kids. Here in Texas, parents can seek a “conscientious exemption” from getting their children vaccinated. While the percentage who do this is typically very low — less than one percent of the population statewide — rates are generally on the rise in some area counties (see chart below), and some schools in the Greater Houston area report as many as ten percent of their student population isn’t vaccinated.

On this edition of Houston Matters, we discuss vaccination rates in Greater Houston, and welcome your questions and comments for Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist with UTHealth. We also hear from Anna Dragsbaek, the CEO of the Houston-based Immunization Partnership.

Percentage of Students with a Conscientious Exemption (Source: Texas Department of State Health Services)

Counties 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014
Chambers 0.25% 0.19% 0.48% 0.44%
Fort Bend 0.32% 0.39% 0.45% 0.57%
Galveston 0.53% 0.69% 0.78% 0.91%
Harris* 0.33% 0.39% 0.43% 0.57%
Liberty 0.25% 0.34% 0.29% 0.39%
Montgomery 0.88% 1.06% 1.17% 0.72%
Waller 0.07% 0.30% 0.33% 0.55%

*In Harris County, the percentage of students with such conscientious exemptions during the 2013-2014 school year reached a four year high, though still at a relatively low 0.57%.

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