The vaccine exemption rate for North Texas school districts has skyrocketed.
The Texas legal code allows parents to request vaccine exemptions for their children for medical contraindications and matters of conscience, which include religious belief.
Over the last 10 years, Texas Health and Human Services (THHS) recorded a roughly 200% increase in conscientious exemptions from required immunizations in Tarrant County schools and a 300% increase in Dallas County schools.
Pro-vaccine choice parents are concerned that certain vaccines will harm their children’s health. On the other hand, others fear these exemption increases could leave schoolchildren more vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
“Measles, mumps and rubella, diphtheria, Hep A—all these vaccines that are really helpful in preventing terrible diseases from impacting our children’s lives—are being neglected,” claimed clinical epidemiologist Shane Fernando of the UNT Health Science Center, speaking with CBS DFW.
“We’re probably going to see more measles again,” Fernando suggested. “These are diseases that nobody wants to see. They’re very dangerous. They can cause lasting impacts.”
Still, for some North Texans, the principles of freedom of choice and parental rights are fundamental.
Rather than the government, “parents need to be responsible for their children’s medical decisions,” stated Jackie Schlegel of the medical advocacy organization Texans for Medical Freedom to The Dallas Express. “No individual should be forced to have a vaccine against their will, regardless of the government’s definition of a health care crisis.”
When asked if public skepticism of the rushed COVID-19 mRNA vaccines could have contributed to this trend in more recent years, Schlegel responded, “Individuals are highly skeptical of the vaccines the more they learn about the serious side effects, corners that were cut, and the rabid, erratic behavior that liberal government bureaucrats push to force people to get shots.”
A list of school districts, charter networks, and private schools published by THHS shows that conscientious exception rates for the 2020-2021 academic year are all over the place.
In Dallas ISD, for instance, only 0.45% of the study body secured at least one conscientious exemption. Smaller ISDs in the area, such as Denton, Grapevine-Colleyville, Keller, McKinney, and Plano, ranged between 2-4%.
Private schools, however, seemed to register the highest exemption rates.
Grace Preparatory Academy and Harvest Christian Academy, both in Tarrant County, saw more than 10% of their students hold some sort of conscientious objection.
First Baptist Academy of Dallas logged just under 7%, while Waxahachie Preparatory Academy made it over the 20% mark.
“It’s a major concern,” Fernando said. “I don’t see [the trend] going away quickly.”
However, Dr. Wayne M. Yokoyama, professor of Medicine, Pathology, and Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine, suggested that the public should not be concerned by these exemption rates.
In a 2009 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Yokoyama said, scientists found that natural immunity can fight infection better than vaccinations.
Innate immune cells can recognize a memory of their previous activation during infection and thus “respond more easily and effectively to the next call for activation,” he said.