Texas is a hotspot for both preventable infectious diseases and anti-vaccine sentiment. This is especially true in the state capital of Austin, which is experiencing a rise in anti-vaccine groups and the circulation of a new documentary advocating against vaccination. For over a decade, vaccination rates of school children have steadily declined while conscientious nonmedical exemptions, or those obtained only on the basis of religious or personal beliefs, have risen to a record level. Almost 45,000 Texas children received nonmedical exemptions for vaccinations in the 2015-16 school year, compared to 2,314 in 2003-04. This increase affects not only the health of the child, but also that of the community, especially individuals who are immune-compromised, including the sick, elderly and young children. To curb the use of nonmedical exemptions in Texas and protect public health, state legislators should revise the school-entry vaccination exemption policy to require that the form be submitted annually and include a physician’s signature. Furthermore, an exemption should only be granted after a physician has reviewed the risks to the child and the community of opting out of vaccination.
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