Vaccination exemption rates grow in Frisco schools

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Correction: An earlier version of this story said that measles was declared eradicated in 2000. It should have said measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

Vaccination exemptions for conscientious reasons continue rising in Frisco as a growing number of measles cases emerge across the country.

The exemption rate for Frisco ISD has increased from 1.52% to 2.4% since the 2012-13 school year, whereas the rates for Leadership Prep School and Legacy Christian Academy have grown to 5.8% and 6.4%, respectively. Schools are not required to report which vaccines students are opting not to receive.

Nationwide, the 940 reported cases of the measles this year through May 24 is the largest number since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the disease eliminated in 2000 in the United States.

The majority of people who contracted the measles were unvaccinated, according to the CDC.

Two measles cases were reported in Collin County and one in Denton County as of May 31, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Measles is so contagious that experts said as much as 95% of any given population needs to be vaccinated to prevent an outbreak. Leadership Prep School, Legacy Christian Academy and one FISD school have exemption rates of more than 5%, but it is unclear whether those students are exempt from the measles, mumps and rubella—or MMR—vaccine.

Collin and Denton counties are following the trend of other places in Texas, as more and more people are choosing not to vaccinate their children, said Juan Rodriguez, the Denton County chief epidemiologist.

Rodriguez said he expects exemption rates to keep rising while diseases, such as whooping cough and the measles, make a comeback.

“The reason why less and less people stopped having these diseases is because of vaccinations,” he said. “These diseases were almost eliminated, and now they are making a resurgence because people are choosing not to vaccinate.”

Dr. Jawaid Asghar, the Collin County chief epidemiologist, said parents with higher education levels are often the ones choosing not to vaccinate their children.

“There is hesitation and misinformation out there,” he said. “Also, the studies that came about autism and MMR, the CDC proved it not to be true based on fact, but still there is a lot of misinformation out there on [vaccinations].”

Vaccinations are vital to protecting the community at large, said Chris Van Deusen, the DSHS director of media relations.

“It just takes one person who is not immunized to take a trip to Europe or Asia, where measles is much more common than it is here, and they come back and they are in a community or population where immunization rates are low for some reason,” Van Deusen said. “That could spread very, very quickly.”

School vaccines

The Texas Legislature passed a law in 2003 that allows vaccination exemptions for “reasons of conscience.” A conscientious exemption allows a student to opt out of a vaccine when there is a religious, philosophical or moral objection to it. Texas also allows exemptions for medical reasons.

Conscientious exemptions require a notarized letter from a child’s guardian and remain valid for two years.

In accordance with Texas law, public and private schools require students to receive six mandatory vaccines before they can enroll in kindergarten.

These vaccinations are meant to prevent chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis A and B. Texas students are required to get two doses of MMR with the first dose received on or after the first birthday.

A seventh vaccine is also required for students to enroll in seventh grade. This vaccine protects against meningitis.

Vaccines work by helping the body develop an immunity to a disease, said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Health and a professor at UT Southwestern.

“For example, the measles vaccine is a weakened strain of the measles virus,” he said. “It’s a strain of virus that, though it can’t cause disease, but is fundamentally so similar to the real measles [virus]that once someone’s exposed to it, they develop an immune response to that vaccine, and that protects them against measles.”

Van Deusen said vaccines are not foolproof, but they are highly effective. The measles vaccine, for instance, is 97% effective, he said.

“Still there is 3% of the population that even if they had those two doses, for whatever reason, their immune system just isn’t going to respond and they could still get sick with the measles if they are exposed to it,” he said.

Most people who contract the measles are able to fully recover, but some people may have lingering health issues or even die from the disease, Van Deusen said. Babies cannot receive the MMR vaccine until they are a year old.

“Particularly people who are at greater risk are very young children, babies, people who are elderly or have some kind of underlying health conditions are much more susceptible to serious complications,” he said.

Local resident Mary Barnes said vaccinations should not be forced on parents. Barnes said her sons were fully vaccinated until ages 10 and 12. But after she had a negative reaction to a vaccination, she decided to stop vaccinating her children.

“I absolutely think the choice should be [left to]parents, or individuals in the case of adults, in particular in cases where there are genetic health issues, which are contraindications for vaccinations,” she said.

School responses

Sheacy Thompson, the director of public relations for Leadership Prep School, said in a statement that the school would notify the DSHS immediately if a student contracted a known infectious disease.

“Leadership Prep School takes its responsibility to protect the health and safety of our students and employees seriously and would enact its procedure for notifying families as well as teachers and staff of the possible exposure and common signs and symptoms of the disease,” Thompson said.

Legacy Christian Academy declined to comment.

Meghan Cone, the assistant director of communications for FISD, said the district would rely on the expertise of local and state health officials if an outbreak occurred at a school.

Cone said FISD tries to be accommodating to all parents, providing information for both required vaccinations and exemption forms. The district offers immunization clinics in conjunction with new student registration. FISD also points parents to other local clinics where students can get required vaccines.

“We follow the law,” Cone said. “The law says you have to have shots in order to attend school, but the law also provides an option for parents to seek an exemption should they so choose.”

Sherelle Black, Emily Davis, Olivia Lueckemeyer and Cassidy Ritter contributed to this story.

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15 comments
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  1. If your kids are unvaccinated, then they shouldn’t be allowed in public schools.

    This practice of ‘conscientious objections’ to vaccination puts the wider populace at risk. Particularly those with: compromised immune systems, the very young, very old or those who are unable to be vaccinated for REAL medical reasons (HIV, compromised immune systems, cancer) and not for imagined pseudoscience.

    The fact that we have seen a resurgence of measles clearly demonstrates that this ‘optional vaccination’ mentality is critically damaging our ‘herd immunity’. ‘Anti-Vax’ is a selfish, ignorant, opinion based on “research” that has been thoroughly disproven.

  2. I am a breast cancer survivor with low immune systems, if I get sick from an unvaccinated kid while I am in a public place, I will sue the parents .
    If parents want their kids with no protection from vaccines, keep them at home, dont risk the lives of others.
    I am fed up with selfish parents,irresponsable .

    • I welcome your lawsuit. I went to law school and even with the best attorney you could not win. Stop being so angry with life and move somewhere rural. Or become a hermit if your system is so incredibly fragile.

      • Life has a funny way of teaching morons like you a lesson. When you get cancer, and are doing chemo and radiation and have a low immunity, some anti-vax’d Darwin winner will sneeze in the same hospital hallway you’re in.

        And that’s it you’re done. Dying from your stupidity and lack of compassion for others. Read up on herd immunity and why it’s important for everyone in society to play a role in protecting others.

        Would you just stand by while someone was being killed ? I think yes. Because that’s what you’re doing to your children and others right now.

    • Glad you aren’t in charge of making the laws. What a horribly closed-minded, naive outlook on life you have. There are MORE than two types of people in the anti-vax world, just so you know. At least 3, if not 4. Enlighten yourself.
      https://www.quora.com/Should-I-vaccinate-my-9-year-old-daughter-against-diphtheria-tetanus-polio-parotitis-mumps-measles-and-rubella-I-dont-know-what-to-do-Should-I-do-it-or-not/answer/Jack-Hastings-9?ch=2&share=ec80d99f&srid=u9Hp4

    • Franchesca Nellenback

      I have an honest question for you. What about parents that have witnessed their child react badly to a vaccine? Should those children continue to be vaccinated and suffer even more harm and even presently die so you don’t get sick and die from specifically an unvaccinated kid? Is it better for you to get sick and die from someone fully vaccinated since everything can’t be vaccinated for? Why do you deserve to live so much more than my son?

      • These are very rare cases – but documented reactions should be exempt.

        The problem is most of the exemptions are due to brainwashed idiots and religious dorks that “ain’t no guberment gonna tell me and my kin how to live”.

        But if your kid can’t be vaccinated you need to advise other parents because no one wants their child around little polio Pauline or Ronnie Rotovirus.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4599698/

  3. GFY. Glad you aren’t in charge of making the laws. What a horribly closed-minded, naive outlook on life you have. There are MORE than two types of people in the anti-vax world, just so you know. At least 3, if not 4. Enlighten yourself.
    https://www.quora.com/Should-I-vaccinate-my-9-year-old-daughter-against-diphtheria-tetanus-polio-parotitis-mumps-measles-and-rubella-I-dont-know-what-to-do-Should-I-do-it-or-not/answer/Jack-Hastings-9?ch=2&share=ec80d99f&srid=u9Hp4

      • We now have 2 pieces of evidence that you’ve suffered a serious brain injury.

        1. Your oops post.

        2. Your anti-vax stance.

        Please be seen by a doctor before you cause yourself or others any further harm.

  4. Parents that won’t vaccinate their children should have them taken away.

    What grand and immense stupidity one must have to believe in what Jenny McCarthy says versus every doctor, scientist and study ever done on vaccinations. Vaccines save lives and prevent illness and death and they do not cause autism. It’s been proven over and over again.

    Not smart enough to see through the anti-vax bullshit ? Well you and your little Darwin award winning genetics children need to just go ahead and get polio or pertussis and die a slow shameful and regretful death.

    Honestly – people are so stupid these days.

  5. The basic shots should be necessary for school. You lost sheep running around every year to get stabbed by the flu shot….Wait until 5g turns all the way on and Solar Shield by Dr David Keith at Harvard turns on the chemtrails! We’re really going to fry in our lovely tight nit communities 😫 🤗

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Lindsey Juarez
Lindsey has been involved in newspapers in some form since high school. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2014 with a degree in Journalism. While attending UTA, she worked for The Shorthorn, the university's award-winning student newspaper. She was hired as Community Impact Newspaper's first Frisco reporter in 2014. Less than a year later, she took over as the editor of the Frisco edition. Since then, she has covered a variety of topics and issues important to the community, including the city's affordable housing shortage, the state's controversial A-F school accountability system and the city's "Bury the Lines" efforts.
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