Immunization exemptions rising in Spring and Klein

In the past 10 years the number of students who have received exemptions from mandatory vaccines for “reasons of conscience” has steadily increased in both Spring and Klein ISDs, potentially creating a greater risk for students who cannot receive immunizations due to medical conditions, school health officials said.

In KISD, enrollment increased by 22 percent from 2007 to 2016, but more than four times as many students now receive waivers from immunizations due to “reasons of conscience,” for religious or other nonmedical reasons, according to district statistics.

While the percentage of unvaccinated students in the district is still small—it has increased from 0.35 percent to 1.30 percent of total student enrollment in 10 years—that translates to 676 students in the 2016-17 school year, according to KISD statistics.Immunization exemptions rising in Spring and Klein

Parents requesting an exemption for reasons of conscience are not required to give a specific reason for the exemption, KISD Health Services Coordinator Laurie G. Combe said.

Parents must sign an affidavit requesting an exemption from the Texas Department of State Health Services and have it notarized.

“The increase in exemptions for reasons of conscience creates communicable disease risks for students with medical conditions that preclude immunization,” Combe said.

Vaccination promotes “herd immunity” by forcing communicable diseases to die out due to the lack of available hosts, SISD Director of Nursing Jeanne Parker said. Any unvaccinated person infected with an illness, such as measles or the flu, can transmit the virus to another person who has not received the vaccine.

The increase in exemptions for reasons of conscience is less steep at SISD than at KISD, growing from 20 individual student requests in 2007 to 205 for the 2016-17 school year. However, the number of requests has increased each year in the past decade, from 0.06 percent of the student population in 2007 to 0.46 percent last year.

Parker said proof of immunization is required from students who do not have exemptions.

“When you get a year with a bad flu, you can have many thousands die [nationally],” Parker said. “All those diseases, when you get them in your childhood, can affect different parts of your body beyond your childhood.”

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By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.