Number of unvaccinated students increase

Number of unvaccinated students increase
Oluyemisi Fatunde, Medical Director of the Pediatric Clinic at Texas Tech University
Oluyemisi Fatunde, Medical Director of the Pediatric Clinic at Texas Tech University

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The number of unvaccinated students is on the rise.

About 10,000 Texas students were exempt from at least one federally recommended vaccination and that number increased in 2015 to almost 41,000.

Texas passed a law back in 2003 giving parents the option of allowing their children not to receive vaccinations.

Doctors believe these numbers are increasing because last year Governor Greg Abbott recognized the importance of public health benefits the shots give, but showed his support for allowing families to opt out of the vaccinations.

Some parents and professionals believe children receive too many vaccinations in a short time, believing the risks of vaccination potentially outweigh the benefits for otherwise healthy children.

However, Oluyemisi Fatunde, the Medical Director of the Pediatric Clinic at Texas Tech University, believes children are not getting shots too young.

"When children are born they are born with some immunity they derive from the mother in the womb," Fatunde said. "As soon as you cut that umbilical cord the level of the antibodies start dropping, so that by the time that they are five, six months there is nothing in there to protect them."

Fatunde said these vaccinations are important because they help the body fight future diseases.

"When you vaccinate, the antibody level in the person goes up, and when they come across the organisms (diseases) the body is able to fight them so they don't come down with a disease, or if they do its a milder form," Fatunde said.

Doctors said diseases like Polio can lead to more other serious health concerns like Paralysis, which is why they believe parents should vaccinate.

Doctors have indicated that when a majority of people are not vaccinated the herd immunity is diminished, which means the collective immunity of the population decreases making us more susceptible to diseases.

Fatunde believes people are not immunizing their children because the diseases the vaccinations prevent are rare in the United States.

"I believe the reason people here are thinking that way (do not vaccinate) is because many of those infections are so rare that many people have never seen them," Fatunde said. "Even many doctors have never seen them, so it's kind of in the past and they don't believe that they actually occurred but there are many countries in the world where children are still dying from these infections, and we really don't want them to come back."

Texas is one of 18 states that exempts children from receiving vaccinations due to religious or personal beliefs. Texas began allowing exemptions for reasons of conscience in 2003.

Some doctors feel it can be hard to treat a patient who refuses to receive the vaccinations because of religious beliefs, but Fatunde said it is important to listen to them.

"The important thing is to listen to their reasons," Fatunde said. "Is it that they have come across someone who had an adverse reaction to immunizations? Is it that they have read about something or is it religious beliefs? Then we try to educate to inform them."

In those cases doctors educate the parents about why the vaccine is beneficial and continue to see the child and ask about vaccinations.

Fatunde said vaccines are usually safe, even though they can have adverse reactions which are usually mild. She said they are tolerable compared to the disease itself.

Students who are not fully vaccinated account for less than 1 percent of the 5.2 million students enrolled in Texas schools. Some schools in the area have seen a decrease in vaccinations, but say they aren't concerned about possible outbreaks.

Nurses at Bushland Independent School District said only 8% of elementary school students are not vaccinated.

According to the Amarillo Public Health Department diseases the vaccinations prevent like Mumps, Measles, Influenza, Tetanus, and Varicella (Chickenpox) have not increased in the area.

Even though these disease are rare Fatunde recommends vaccinating. "There are so many other things in life that you have to fight, you don't have to be fighting preventable infections by yourself," Fatunde said.

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