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Home / Health / "Sooner or later, we will get an outbreak": Schools in the San Antonio area are seeing more and more exceptions for non-medical vaccines

"Sooner or later, we will get an outbreak": Schools in the San Antonio area are seeing more and more exceptions for non-medical vaccines

In the last year Tiffany Mijares looked around and noticed that many of her peers were not in class.

She was not surprised – it was a flu season, and Mijares, who would one day become a doctor, knew he was investigating. Local vaccination rates, where a significant proportion of private religious school students were not routinely vaccinated.

Last year, the Christian School in Castle Hills had one of the highest vaccination rates in the county of Bexar for exemption from conscience – the abandonment of a vaccine for non-medical reasons, including personal or religious beliefs. Nearly three percent of the students waived at least one vaccine at will in the 2018/19 school year.

At a certain point in time, there were so many students missing that teachers redesigned tests and made audio recordings of the lesson so that the sick at home could stay in class. When the 1

6-year-old returned to school that week she planned to do what she had always done: start conversations and share information about vaccines with her classmates. Including a Google document, which she has compiled with links to credible sources.

Number of pupils with exemptions per school

Each item represents a campus and is measured in proportion to the number of students who received at least one exemption from the dispensation between 2018 and 2019. Enlarge the view and click on each location for more information. Note: At charter schools, which in some cases can span more than one campus, the exceptional numbers appear to be increased.

One or more students

zero students

Source: School districts of Bexar & Department of State Health Services | Credit: Luke Whyte & Lauren Caruba, Express News

Note: For traditional independent school districts, campus-level totals are based on data published through public information requests, which in some cases differs from government data for those districts. For private and charter schools, the information is based on data provided by the Ministry of Public Health Services.

"When people started their own research, I heard they were working more for vaccines, and they realized some. A spokesperson for the school declined to comment.

On ExpressNews.com: San Antonio Officials Try to Dispel "Obviously False" Ebola Rumors

While the San Antonio area is generally not considered a hotbed of vaccine diseases, there are still thousands of schoolchildren refraining from choosing at least one vaccine, according to an analysis of federal state and school district data.

During the past school year, at least 3,000 students voted for a scrupulous exception at public, charter and private schools throughout Bexar County. Including the large suburbs of Comal and Boerne ISD, this number is close to 4,000.

In some schools, these students may account for a negligible proportion of the student body. For others, there are enough students who are vaccinated to make the campus susceptible to an outbreak of infectious diseases.

In recent years, non-medical exemptions have steadily increased in San Antonio and elsewhere in Texas, alerting health authorities and vaccination advocates. In less than a decade, they have nearly tripled in Bexar County, from 0.32 percent of students in 2011-12 to 0.80 percent in 2017-18.

The effect was dramatic throughout Texas. According to an article published this week in the medical journal JAMA, student vaccine exemptions in Texas have increased by a factor of 28 since 2003, when the state facilitated the conditions for obtaining exemptions, indicating that in some schools significant outbreaks of measles possible, the researchers found.

"If the vaccination coverage among Texas students in underprivileged communities continues to decline, the potential number of measles outbreaks is expected to increase exponentially," concluded the researchers attached to the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh ,

On ExpressNews.com: San Antonio Man Imprisoned for Mandatory Tuberculosis Treatment Following a Court Order [19659002] Compared to other areas of Texas, non-medical relief rates in San Antonio seem to be low his. Seventy miles north, the suburbs of Austin have much higher rates, including a charter school with more than 35 percent.

Relief rates have increased in nearly every traditional public school district in the San Antonio area According to the Texas Department of Health Department at the district level since the 2012-2013 school year.

In some districts, the growth was dramatic. From the 2012/13 to 2018/19 school year, Boerne ISD's quota rose from 1.84 to 3.43 percent, while Comal ISD's quota more than doubled from 1.04 to 2.26 percent.

Even small changes in the exemption rates in larger districts are possible a big impact. During the same period, non-medical exemptions in the Northside ISD, the largest district in Bexar County, increased from 0.39 percent of students in the 2012-2013 school year to 1.07 percent in the last school year – a percentage of more than 1,000 students across the district equivalent.

What worries us is the growing trend toward non-medical exemptions every year, "said Anita Kurian, who heads the Department of Infectious Diseases at the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. "At some point, we will fall below the threshold required to protect everyone in the community."

Hot Spots

New York City Health Authorities Had Problems at the Start of the Year In Brooklyn, Queens, and nearby Rockland County, there were large numbers of measles outbreaks, leading to hundreds of cases. Officials declared public health emergencies, and in New York people were summoned who did not meet the vaccine requirements.

So far, the area of ​​San Antonio has dealt with only two related cases of measles this year, the first of which originated with a foreign traveler visiting Guadalupe County.

"We were lucky. The fact that we have not seen any outbreaks in San Antonio after these two cases is a testament to our overall good vaccination coverage, "said Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, program director of the Immunization Partnership in San Antonio, a Houston-based nonprofit organization that Vaccination is being advertised for vaccination.

On ExpressNews.com: Travelers with measles infected a resident of the San Antonio area.

While private schools in Bexar County tend to have the highest rates of exemption, other types of schools also have a critical mass of unvaccinated students.

More than 5 percent of Eleanor Kolitz Hebrew Language Academy has a charter school On the northwest side, last year's school had one of the district's highest exemptions, in addition to the Cornerstone Christian Schools, where 58 students were tax exempt. First Baptist Academy in Universal City; and Sunshine Cottage, a private school for hearing impaired children.

The Director of the Hebrew Language Academy declined to comment.

"We know that people tend to associate with people who have the same opinions as they do. That's a big concern, "said Rohr-Allegrini. "If we start to increase those numbers, sooner or later we'll get an outbreak."

Last year, Northside had 46 schools with 10 or more students who had received non-medical exceptions, including a dozen campuses of 20 or more students. Brandeis and O & Connor High Schools had 32 and 31 exempt students, respectively.

North East ISD had 29 locations with 10 or more exempt students, including more than 30 such students at three locations: Johnson, Madison, and Reagan High Schools.

Northside Healthcare Director Jennifer Krueger said the district oversees the sites with a higher number of vaccination exemptions and addresses the concerns of parents of medically ill children who may not be immunized For various reasons reluctant to administer vaccines.

"We really try to enlighten them and say that they are necessary for the safety of children. You are safe, "she said.

Opinion changes

As a parent, one can be scared, Rohr-Allegrini said, and the Internet is rife with misinformation about vaccines, including false but long-standing fears of being linked to autism ,

Parents who oppose the vaccination of their children usually want the best for their children, Kurian said, but tend to be misled in some way.

She said that parents who delay the vaccine tend to fall into several major categories: uninformed but needing education, misinformed but correctable, literate and open-minded, and "missionary-minded".

The first three groups are usually open to information about vaccines and can change their opinions on the topic. The latter is unwilling to change its beliefs and wants to convince others to take their position against vaccines, Kurian said.

The most important thing is to listen to them, to avoid concerns, and to give explanations in "plain English," she added.

On ExpressNews.com: Exemptions for Texas Vaccines Rise Again Despite Measles Outcome

For class projects and science fairs, Mijares, the student from Castle Hills, has investigated various aspects of vaccines, including reporting about news and public mood. She interviewed her classmates anonymously to what extent they perceived vaccines, and asked them where they had received information on the topic.

She tries to provide her colleagues with correct information in a non-confrontational way. If worried about a possible association with autism, she will talk about her 5-year-old brother, who has recently been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and explain that vaccines did not cause it.

Mijares said her goal is to help her classmates learn more about vaccines and make informed decisions.

"Education can bring so much more education," she said.

Lauren Caruba deals with health care and medicine in the San Antonio and Bexar County regions. Read them on our free website mySA.com and on our subscriber website ExpressNews.com. | [email protected] | Twitter: @LaurenCaruba

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