Texas has been in the spotlight lately on the topic of vaccines, portrayed as the anti-vaccine hotspot of the nation.
That’s not an entirely true or fair depiction. Overall, Texans are very good about getting immunizations for their children. But the number of people who claim non-medical exemptions to the law requiring immunization for schools has increased 19-fold since 2003, and there are pockets within the state where the numbers of unvaccinated children have reached dangerous levels.
Of course, we know those pockets exist in many states; just witness the recent measles outbreak in Minnesota.
So why is it that so much attention is focused on Texas?
A new Vice News segment that aired earlier this month chose to concentrate on a different part of the story, rather than the wholly discredited idea that vaccines cause autism or other serious health problems. Instead, it looked at how the state’s history of resisting regulation plays a role in the state’s vaccine policies. The Vice reporter interviewed a state lawmaker who, when asked, “What about when a person’s personal liberty infringes on somebody else’s safety?” said that in his opinion, public health and safety were less important.
Interviewed were parents who believe in getting personal exemptions and those who think that those exemptions could be dangerous to their own children. And finally, the reporter spoke with Dr. Peter J. Hotez, a pediatrician and vaccine researcher at Baylor College of Medicine, father of an autistic child, and passionate supporter of immunization.
Hotez pointed out that this idea of personal liberty taking precedence over public safety seems to be applied mainly to vaccines. Parents have to buckle their infants into car seats, he said, and lock away guns when there are children in the house.
It’s an interesting seven-minute report, well worth watching here.
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