Number of unvaccinated Texas students reaches all-time high, health officials say

Officials: Bexar County saw 1.65% of unvaccinated students

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Ken Huizar - Photojournalist, Robert Samarron - Photojournalist, Valerie Gomez - Video Editor

SAN ANTONIO - The number of students opting out of getting vaccinated in Texas is at an all-time high.

In San Antonio and surrounding area school districts, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported that 531 kindergarten students out of 29,126 students are not vaccinated, which is 1.8% of students.

The trend has the medical community concerned.

Parents who are choosing to exempt their children are protected by a 2003 state law.

Overall, 2.15% of kindergarten students in Texas are not vaccinated.

This past school year's numbers show 1.65% of students in Bexar County are not vaccinated, according to TDSHS.

In the following surrounding area school districts, more than 2.5% the kindergarten population is not vaccinated. Those districts include Alamo Heights ISD, with 2.53%; Boerne ISD, with 5.7%; La Vernia ISD, with 3.29%; and North East ISD, with 2.47%.

According to TDSHS, some local private schools also had higher numbers: New Braunfels Christian Academy, with 8.11%, and Southwest Preparatory School, with 12.50%.

For this story, KSAT contacted the districts and schools with a percentage higher than 2.5%.

Below are some of the statements:

"The law allows exemptions and some of our parents exercise their right to that exemption."  -Boerne ISD

"We have parents that base their objection on religious, ethical, or cultural beliefs. Our percentage is small- but our goal would be to get it even smaller. We continue to try to educate parents and provide them with information to help keep their children well and free from preventable diseases." -NEISD

San Antonio ISD had the majority of its students vaccinated, with 0.66% exempt.

For parents seeking to look up vaccine exemptions for their child’s school district or private school, the Texas Tribune created a database with all of the Texas districts on its website.

All of the state's school districts and private schools are listed.

These percentages may seem small, but the San Antonio Metro Health Department said residents should be concerned.

"If we are seeing an upward trend in vaccine exemptions, the fear is that, at some point pretty soon in the future, we will not find this community immunity effective," Dr. Anita Kurian, assistant director with Metro Health, said.

Community immunity or herd immunity is when a large part of the community is vaccinated.

"When you have a large segment of vaccinated folks, it limits the spread of disease in the community," Kurian said.

Kurian said to think of this percentage as a small leak in a boat floating on top of the water and to think of the water as an infectious disease.

Think of the vaccine as a boat that protects anyone from the infectious disease or, in this case, the water.

When the small leak in the boat is not fixed, the boat will eventually be taken over by the water, much like the way an infectious disease takes over when the vaccine fails.

"Vaccinations are important because diseases are not completely eradicated globally," Kurian said. "Unless we do that, we can't take the foot off the gas pedal."

Kurian said she worries about younger parents who may not be aware of the impact that infectious diseases have had on populations.

"They have forgotten the devastation these diseases can cause. Now, their attention has shifted from the disease to the perceived risk of vaccines," she said.

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