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 incorrect information online about vaccines.
Experts also worry that some diseases such as measles and polio will make a comeback. Recently, the first case of polio arrived in New York City in 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 on mandated vaccines.
“We want to draw the attention of parents, the legislative attention to this issue that what we are 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 mandated in Texas, up to 30% of children would be unvaccinated, which could put many children “at risk.”
According to the Immunization Partnership, 60,000 children across 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,” said Terri Burke, Executive Director for 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 worry about, vaccinations are the easiest thing they can do to protect their children from all the things they worry about.”
She said she is also concerned about the passage of vaccine-related bills in next year’s state legislative session that could affect children’s enrollment and public schools.
“There are groups that plan to introduce 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 is Chairman of Pediatrics at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, he said the best way to keep children healthy and safe is to vaccinate them.
“We should fear these diseases, not vaccines,” he said. “Vaccines are safe and effective.”
He said many of the diseases such as polio, whooping cough, influenza, meningitis and measles, which is one of the leading 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 every year globally,” he said.
Dr. Jason Turke is a consultant for Cook’s Children’s Pediatric Keller Parkway, he said there is a lot of misinformation and misinformation that is stopping parents from vaccinating their children.
“Unfortunately we’re seeing an influence from groups that have an effect on well-meaning parents who just want to do the right thing for their children,” he said.
Turke also said he regretted that “you’re seeing more and more indications that we’re going to see more cases of disease.”
According to health experts in Houston, immigrant families who have immigrated 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 trust information from the Internet more than their doctors now.
“The evidence we have can tell you, 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 about any concerns.
“Bring the information you’re reading online to your doctor’s or pediatrician’s office and discuss what fears are keeping you from vaccinating your child.”
Before the pandemic, doctors said there were cases of measles in Mexico, but rates have dropped.
Subscribe to Today in Houston
Fill out the form below to subscribe to our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.