Groups want to change Texas law allowing non-medical exemptions for vaccines

Another measles case in Harris County brings the state total to eight confirmed cases of a once eradicated disease.

Vaccine advocates say disease outbreaks -- like measles -- are on the rise since 2003, when Texas started allowing for non-medical exemptions to vaccine requirements.

The number of non-medical vaccination exemptions have skyrocketed over the years, putting public safety on the line, vaccine advocates say.

This has brought a renewed push to change Texas law.

For some, a vaccine is a life-saving tool.

For others, it’s an instrument of fear.

“The reality is that we've seen a rising voice in regards to anti-vaxxers,” said Dr. Robert Sanborn, president & CEO of Children at Risk.

Vaccine advocates hope to change that.

In 2003, after an article linked vaccines to autism, the Texas legislature passed a law allowing parents to choose not to vaccinate their children for non-medical reasons.

The article was debunked, but the law stayed in place.

About 2,300 students had non-medical exemptions in 2004, compared to nearly 57,000 in 2018.

“It is no coincidence that since that time, we have seen more and more outbreaks,” said Allison Winnike, with the Immunization Partnership.

Vaccine advocates say parents who don't vaccinate their children are putting those who can't get vaccinated at risk.

So far, there have been eight confirmed measles cases in the state. In North Texas, 25 school districts have had to be temporarily closed due to widespread flu.

But parents like Leslie Phillips are still anxious about embracing vaccines.

She claims her youngest son had an adverse reaction to vaccinations he received as a baby.

”It’s wise to consider all the possibilities because the consequences for vaccines injuring my family have been really horrific,” Phillips said.

Vaccine advocates insist they're safe, focusing on stemming the rise of highly contagious, potentially deadly diseases.

They say real change is blocked by a powerful anti-vaxxers lobby.

But they hope legislators will listen to their message and stop the erosion of public health laws.

“We don’t live in a time right now where we are going to have a bill that's pro science, and we are going to eliminate non-medical exemptions, but in the end, that really is the right thing,” Dr. Sanborn said.

Vaccine advocates say too many parents are swayed by erroneous information on the internet.