Vaccination exemption rates grow in Frisco schools

Image description
FISD Exemption Rates
Image description
FRS-06_p32-2School Vaccinations- Texas
Image description
FISD Vaccination rates
Image description
FRS-06_p32-1B
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.



MOST RECENT

Restaurateur Dale Wamstad's new eatery Rooster Town Wafflery opened in Richardson on April 21. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
Breakfast, lunch spot opens in Richardson; Ono Poke coming to Southlake and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Frisco ISD has plans to launch a new virtual learning school for the 2021-22 school year. (Courtesy Canva)
Frisco ISD to launch virtual school for 2021-22

The Virtual School will be offered to families with students in grades 3-12 who wish to have their students continue to learn virtually.

Romeo's Pizza is looking to open in Frisco. (Courtesy Romeo's Pizza)
Romeo's Pizza coming to Frisco; steak, seafood lounge returning to Plano and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Hotworx is coming to Frisco this summer. (Courtesy Hotworx)
Hotworx starts construction on infrared fitness studio in Frisco

The studio will offer a variety of fitness classes, including yoga, Pilates and barre-style workouts.

A Pretty Face Spa and Brow Bar is now open in Frisco. (Courtesy A Pretty Face Spa and Brow Bar)
New spa and brow bar opens in west Frisco

Services at the spa include customized facials, including for teenagers, focused on healthy skin treatments, brow waxing, brow lamination, tinting, semi-permanent microblading and microshading brows.

As part of President Joe Biden’s plan to reopen schools safely nationwide, the department’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option is being expanded beyond the summertime. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
USDA extends free school meals provision through 2021-22 school year

Schools nationwide will be able to serve nutritious meals to all students free of charge regardless of eligibility through June 30, 2022, officials announced.

Romeo's Pizza is looking to open in Frisco. (Courtesy Romeo's Pizza)
Romeo's Pizza to bring location to Frisco this summer

Romeo's Pizza offers handcrafted pies using fresh ingredients.

The new Frisco Public Library has already earned an award for its design. (Rendering courtesy Gensler)
GALLERY: Frisco holds groundbreaking ceremony for new public library

Mayor Jeff Cheney called the facility project the biggest Frisco has ever taken on.

The company also has plans for another location in Northeast Fort Worth. (Courtesy Starbucks)
Starbucks coming to Fort Worth; Makers Gym opens in Frisco and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Home Helpers Home Care is now open in Frisco. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Home Helpers Home Care opens in Frisco

The business offers a care program called Cared-4, which provides four necessary components to living independently.

Continued growth at Legacy West in Plano is helping to boost the local economy, according to the county’s 2020 comprehensive annual financial report. (Courtesy Legacy West)
Collin County finances healthy despite pandemic, report shows

Considering challenges officials faced last year, Collin County’s bottom line is “extremely healthy,” an independent auditor told county commissioners at their April 19 meeting.

vaccine vial
Looking to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Collin County has thousands of openings this week

Thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines are sitting in Collin County freezers waiting to be claimed.