Health experts in Texas said they are concerned that fewer children are getting vaccinated for the new school year and that some parents are getting misinformation online about vaccines.
Experts also worry that some diseases such as measles and polio will return. Recently, the first case of polio arrived in New York in 10 years.
Dr. Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, said the state legislative session in January could bring new laws regarding mandatory vaccines.
“We want to bring parental attention, legislative attention to this issue, that what we’re doing now is the right thing,” he said. “We want to keep our kids healthy by making sure these regular childhood vaccinations are still happening in our state.”
Sanborn added that if vaccines were not made mandatory in Texas, up to 30 percent of children would be unvaccinated, which could put many children “at risk.”
According to the Partnership for Immunization, 60,000 kindergarten children in the state of Texas are behind on vaccinations and 85,000 children are unvaccinated.
“Between the last school year before the pandemic and the beginning of last school year, we saw a dramatic drop in vaccinations for children in kindergarten,” said Terry Burke, executive director of the Immunization Foundation.
Burke said there are many reasons for the decline in vaccinations, such as lack of access to health care, parents not wanting to take their children to the pediatrician for fear of their children getting sick, and misinformation.
“Vaccinations shouldn’t be one of the things they’re worried about, vaccinations are the easiest thing they can do to protect their kids from all the things they’re worried about.”
She said she is also concerned about the passage of vaccine bills in next year’s state legislative session, which could affect children and public school enrollment.
“There are groups that plan to introduce between 50-60 anti-vaccine bills in our next legislative session,” she said. “They are organizing to block any vaccine in Texas that is less than five years after FDA approval.”
Glenn Fennelly, chairman of pediatrics at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, said the best way to keep kids healthy and safe is to get vaccinated.
“We should be afraid of these diseases, not the vaccines,” he said. “Vaccines are safe and effective.”
He said many of the diseases such as polio, whooping cough, influenza, meningitis and measles, which are some of the major killers of children, have severe consequences for children, which is why vaccinating children is a top priority among doctors.
“Vaccines save about three million lives every year globally,” he said.
Dr. Jason Turke is the consultant at Cook’s Children’s Pediatric Keller Parkway, he said there is a lot of misinformation and misinformation that stops parents from vaccinating their children.
“Unfortunately, we’re seeing influence from groups influencing well-meaning parents who just want to do the right thing for their children,” he said.
Turke also said he regretted “seeing more and more indicators that we’re going to see more cases of disease.”
According to Houston health experts, immigrant families who have migrated to the Houston area from other countries are the first to vaccinate their children and make sure they are 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 firsthand the devastation of these easily vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. Vicki Regan, vice president of the women’s and children’s service line at Children’s Memorial Hospital.
She said people now trust information from the Internet more than their doctors.
“The evidence that we have can show you that it was proven many, many years ago that these vaccines are safe and effective.”
Regan said social media has played a big role in a lot of information, and she encourages families to talk to their children’s pediatricians with any concerns.
“Take this data you read on the Internet to your doctor or pediatrician and discuss what fears prevent you from vaccinating your child.”
Before the pandemic, doctors said there were cases of measles in Mexico, but the rates have declined.
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