Vaccine distrust: Why more parents are losing faith

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - Going back to school, your child is required by the state to have up-to-date vaccines.

At the same time, the government also allows you to opt out for reasons of conscience, but experts at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital say unless your child has a medical reason to avoid vaccines, it's a bad idea.

“The big worry that I have about so many children not getting vaccinated in Texas is we're going to see a return of serious and sometimes even deadly childhood infectious diseases and the one I worry about happening first is measles. Measles is one of the great killers of children in the world,” Dr. Peter Hotez said.

According to Hotez, the most vulnerable children aren't even school age yet but can still be exposed to the illness.

“If there is an outbreak in one of the schools, the ones that are really at risk are the siblings [at home], the babies that are under 1 year of age,” Hotez said.

He said babies under 1-year-old could die from illnesses like measles.

“So we're in a very dangerous situation where we can start seeing measles outbreaks at any time,” he warned.

With Texas ranking among states with the lowest vaccination rates, it's clear there's a growing distrust among the public. The skepticism about vaccines tends to go hand in hand with the rise in autism, many people claiming there's a correlation between Autism and vaccines. That theory has actually been proven false in scientific studies.

“We've learned so much now about what autism really is and how it begins prenatally, well before kids are ever vaccinated,” he said.

Autism happens to connect two of the things he's most passionate about, his work as a scientist and as a dad. His daughter, Rachel, has autism and he's never been more dedicated to spreading this message:

“Just like a child has a right to be, if they're in a car, to be in a car seat or a safety belt. They have a fundamental right to be protected against deadly diseases by being vaccinated. It's not a choice, it's a requirement as a parent,” Hotez said.

Hotez emphasized that vaccination coverage up to 90 to 95 percent of a population (in this case, children entering kindergarten) is needed to protect children from highly infectious diseases. Hotez cites the 2014-2015 outbreak in Anaheim, California, saying that it was associated with low vaccination coverage and that it led to a ban on nonmedical exemptions in the state.

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