News Roundup: The Number Of Texas Children Opting Out Of Vaccinations Is On The Rise

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelAugust 14, 2018 2:17 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, someti 1 mes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

As Texas students head back to school, they might have fewer classmates who are fully vaccinated. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the number of kids forgoing at least one vaccination for a nonmedical reason is on the rise. While the number is still small, it has grown each year since Texas lawmakers passed what’s known as conscientious exemptions in 2003. This allows parents or legal guardians to opt out of an otherwise required immunization for their child due to reasons of conscience, including a religious belief.

Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations for the Texas Department of State Health Services, says about one percent of Texas schoolchildren have opted out of at least one vaccine.

“In fact, for the last school year – 2017-18 – was the first time we saw the percentage of children with at least one conscientious exemption on file at school grow just a bit over one percent of the total state student population,” Van Deusen says.

That accounts for just over 56,700 students who have opted out of at least one vaccine. 15 years ago, that figure was roughly 2,300.

“That tells you a couple of things – this continues to grow but the vast majority of children are fully vaccinated for diseases like measles and whooping cough and chicken pox, and those other what used to be common childhood diseases that fortunately that have been really, really strictly limited because of vaccination over the last several decades,” Van Deusen says.

Van Deusen explains that certain areas of the state see higher rates of school children lacking at least one vaccination than others.

“Looking at a map, ya know, that shows, ya know, the area in Central Texas in and around Austin and some areas of north Texas tend to have higher exemption rates. Places, south Texas, far west Texas seem to have lower rates, just looking overall. Of course, there’s a lot of variation locally as well,” Van Deusen says.

Van Deusen adds that – statewide – 97 percent of kindergartners are vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella. That figure jumps up to nearly 99 percent by 7th grade.

Three workers injured in a series of natural gas pipeline explosions in west Texas earlier this month are still recovering at a Lubbock hospital.
Eric Finley, spokesperson for the University Medical Center Health System (UMC), says two are in critical condition and one is in serious condition. All remain in the Burn Unit.

“For patients in the burn center, you can usually spend on average about one day in the hospital for every one percent of your body that is burned,” Finley says. “And so, it’s real easy, even on a burn that may only be 20 percent of your body, or 25 percent of your body, still a major, major burn, but you’re looking at that point at least 20, 25 days in the hospital.”

In total, five workers were airlifted from Midland County to UMC after the August 1 incident. One was quickly released from the hospital. Another worker, 63-year-old Bud Taylor, died days later on August 3. He was an employee of Navitas Midstream Partners. The cause of the blasts are still being investigated.

Gov. Greg Abbott has chosen a date for a special election runoff to replace former State Senator, and convicted felon, Carlos Uresti.

It’s set for September 18.  Democrat Pete Gallego and Republican Pete Flores are vying for the seat in Senate District 19, which stretches from San Antonio to west Texas.