Well done, Texas! A new report by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows the state near the very top nationwide when it comes to protecting young children with some key vaccinations.
The report looks at immunization rates of kindergartners who entered school in the fall of 2016, for three of the vaccinations most needed to protect children from contagious diseases.
Texans did their very best with the extremely important MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The report notes that 97.3 percent of the state’s kindergartners have received both of their required doses. Only three states beat Texas.
Why is this vaccine so important? For one thing, measles is an extremely contagious disease. If 100 unvaccinated people were exposed to the virus, you could expect 90 of them to become sick. Measles is also a dangerous disease that can cause seizures, encephalitis and deafness. In the recent outbreak of measles in Minnesota, about a third of the children afflicted required hospitalization.
The measles vaccine also is about as effective as they come. If 100 vaccinated people were exposed to the virus, you could expect only three of them to fall ill.
The effectiveness rate of the mumps vaccine is a little lower – 87 percent instead of 97 percent for the measles vaccine. But that’s still a lot of protection, with an important side benefit: Though the disease can cause some serious complications, vaccinated people who fall ill will generally get a much milder case of the disease.
The latest statistics from the CDC on the MMR vaccine is especially encouraging for another reason: The measles vaccine has been the one most targeted by anti-vaccine groups that continue to believe in a study that claimed the vaccine was linked to autism, even after the study was found to be a fraud, then retracted and thoroughly discredited by many well-conducted studies that found the opposite. It’s heartening to see that very few Texas parents are buying into false rumors.
Parents also did well by their children with the TDaP vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, with 97.2 percent of kindergartners having received all five of the recommended doses. And 96.6 percent of kindergartners were fully vaccinated against chickenpox. With both of these vaccinations, only four states had higher vaccination rates.
That doesn’t mean Texas is out of the woods when it comes to protecting its children against vaccine-preventable diseases. The number of parents who obtain exemptions from vaccine requirements for non-medical reasons continues to rise.
Although the overall vaccination rates are excellent, there are pockets of the state where vaccination rates are so low that they represents a real threat to the community’s health. That’s what happened in the recent measles outbreak in Minnesota: Somali-Americans had been targeted by vaccine opponents who convinced them of the discredited myths around the measles vaccine. Their children’s vaccination rates fell below 50 percent, and that was the community afflicted by the outbreak.
In addition, although Texas is doing well on these important vaccinations, it’s far behind the rest of the nation in protecting teenagers with the HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical and several other forms of cancer.
There’s still a lot of work to be done to protect the health of the state by improving vaccination rates for some diseases, and maintaining its excellent immunization rates for others.
But the CDC’s new report also gives us reason to congratulate almost all Texas parents, who are making sure their young children receive very important vaccinations. Stand up and take a bow!
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