GLEN ROSE – Despite diligent effort by the district, fewer GRISD students are being vaccinated against preventable diseases. GRISD falls below the state average for vaccinated students, and the number has been steadily declining.

If you witness someone speeding down stadium drive, running stop signs and driving recklessly, you would probably be a little upset. In fact, the state has laws to prevent this from happening. Yet Texas allows parents to simply fill out a form requesting a non-medical exemption and send their child to school unvaccinated. The decision to opt out of vaccinations, partnered with the absence of adequate laws, puts all students at risk. Especially those with weakened immune systems or those who cannot receive their shots.

Glen Rose ISD goes beyond that of many Texas schools to protect the health and safety of its students in many ways including providing a full-time nurse at each campus and offering vaccinations though the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), yet the number of parents exempting their child from vaccinations continues to grow.

According to the DSHS for the 2015-2016 school year, 1.9% of GRISD students claimed a non-medical exemption. This increased from 1.62% of students who were not vaccinated the prior year. In fact, the number of parents exempting their child from the vaccinations that protect all students has increased steadily over the past 5 years.

Often the parents who choose not to vaccinate justify this decision by stating, “If your child is vaccinated, then why does it matter if mine is not?” This is explained by a simple public health principle called herd immunity. If a large majority of the herd is vaccinated, it protects the others, especially those who cannot receive vaccinations for medical reasons and those who have weakened immune systems.

Some make this decision based on a paper published in 1998 relating autism to the mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine (MMR). However, soon after publication, this paper was not only disproved, but the author was found to have acted dishonestly and irresponsibly and was found to have manipulated evidence; as a result, his privileges to practice medicine were removed.

There is an overwhelming amount of research proving that our current vaccines and the vaccine schedule required are safe and effective. Those who choose not to vaccinate due to non-medical reasons put not only their children at risk – but other children and all of the community as well.

Taylor Sexton, a columnist for The Glen Rose Reporter, is a north Texas infectious disease epidemiologist who is certified in Public Health by the American Board of Public Health Examiners.