Contagious diseases in North Texas classrooms put focus on vaccines

Texas bill would make vaccine numbers public

DALLAS - In the wake of mumps cases being diagnosed at North Texas schools, some classrooms in the area are now seeing cases of whooping cough pop up.

The spread of highly contagious viral diseases has many parents asking questions. The trend has some doctors and health departments busy immunizing young patients.

“For many years, people had been protected by what’s called ‘herd immunity’ where if a lot of people in a group have been vaccinated, the disease will, sort of, simmer down to where there’s hardly any cases,” said Dr. Erica Zwernemann, a pediatrician and physician with Baylor, Scott & White.

Zwernemann said when people avoid vaccines, other issues may arise with certain highly contagious infectious diseases.

“The disease will come back through and it will affect both people whose immunizations maybe have lapsed, and weighing into a level that may not be protective anymore,” she explained. “Or particularly those who have never been vaccinated.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly one-third of Texas children under age three failed to receive all recommended immunizations. Some parents just choose not to do it. Others fear vaccine safety.

“The medical community is perplexed why there is a rise in the number of parents declining to vaccinate their children,” said Dr. J.D. Sheffield.

The physician and State Representative from Gatesville, Texas described the vaccination realities as a big problem.

Dr. Sheffield is, once again, pushing House Bill 2249 – The Parents Right to Know Bill.

Supporters say it is a transparency measure that would allow parents to find out how many students, in any particular school, may have up-to-date vaccinations.

Sheffield said collecting the data would not burden school districts.

“This information is already gathered by every school nurse,” the lawmaker explained, “and it’s already out there for, lets say, the Texas Education Agency, Department of State Health Services, or local health department.”

Sheffield said he remains optimistic the Parents Right to Know Bill will move quickly through this legislative session.

In the meantime, many doctors continue encouraging everyone to get children vaccinated.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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