Study: Fewer kids getting vaccine protection

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on May 4, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 4 at 5:53 PM

A parent's first concern is a child's safety. One of the most important decisions comes down to a long list of vaccines.

Vaccines have been an issue in North Texas for many years. In 2009, lines snaked out of area health departments as families sought new vaccines required for school admission.

A new study presented at a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies shows more and more parents are choosing not to wait in line. In fact, they're not even going to the doctor's office.

The study found that in 2003, 22 percent of parents chose to delay or refuse the recommended shots for their kids. Five years later, that number almost doubled to 39 percent.

Several key issues are behind the inoculation decline:

  • 44 percent of those surveyed said they didn't get the vaccines because their child was ill
  • 27 percent believe too many shots are recommended
  • 26 percent question the effectiveness of vaccines

It means that North Texas children — and those they come in contact with — are potentially at higher risk of catching a disease that can be prevented with vaccines.

Chris Huston, a producer of WFAA's "Good Morning Texas" program, would do anything to protect her two children. For her, that includes delaying their vaccinations.

"I decided to spread out the vaccines for my children because if they did have a reaction to one of them, I wanted to be sure which one it was," she explained.

Some parents also have concerns over the safety of the vaccines, concerned about autism and potential side-effects.

"Yes, we're still battling myths," said Dr. Wendy Chung, who tracks epidemics in Dallas County. She points out a surge in whooping cough cases in Texas, an illness that can be prevented with vaccine.

"What it means for us is that there is an increasing likelihood that outbreaks can occur in our community," Dr. Chung said.

Chris Huston says her children will be fully vaccinated, but more gradually, over time, until they reach kindergarten.

Vaccines are required for students in day care centers and in schools. But in Texas — and in many other states — parents can opt out of immunizations for their children for religious, medical, or reasons of conscience.

There are a total of eight vaccines on the required list for public school students in Texas from kindergarten through 12th grade, with a combined 21 separate doses.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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