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Stop vaccine exemptions in Texas

March 27, 2019

Two cases of the measles do not make an outbreak. They do not amount to a public health crisis. But these area cases are a warning about the potential for an outbreak as vaccination exemptions rise.

The story begins with a visitor to Guadalupe County from the Philippines, where there has been a measles outbreak. It continues with a second infection in Bexar County. This time it was a person who had been vaccinated — in rare exceptions, vaccines don’t work. The second person picked it up from the visitor, officials have said.

The good news is the infection has not spread further. But these are also the first reported cases of measles in the San Antonio area in 12 years. The year is young, but there already have been more reported cases in 2019 in Texas — 14 as of this writing — than in all of 2018, when there were nine, according to Express-News journalist Lauren Caruba. In 2017, one case of measles was reported.

And some might remember the large measles outbreak earlier this year in the Pacific Northwest near Portland, Ore. Many of those infected had not been vaccinated.

Texas officials have been clear that these recently reported measles cases do not appear to be connected to anti-vaccine sentiment. But the concern is this sentiment is setting up the state for an outbreak where a preventable disease such as measles moves swiftly across communities and generations.

Texas has seen more and more parents choose to not vaccinate their children, citing reasons of conscience, often driven by the false notion that vaccines cause autism. There is no connection between vaccines and autism. None. Zero.

Such conscientious exemptions have increased from a few thousand in 2003-04 to more than 56,000 students in 2017-18, according to the state. Bexar County is not immune to this troubling trend.

Some people truly do have medical reasons that keep them from getting vaccinated, and children under the age of 1 are too young to be vaccinated. Those who can’t be vaccinated rely on the rest of us to get shots to avoid the spreading of preventable diseases, including measles. This is what public health officials call herd immunity.

State lawmakers should get rid of the conscientious exemption for vaccines. All it does is flirt with a public health crisis. There should be no cases of measles.

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