Texas

As measles cases stack up, Texas lawmaker says he’s opposed to mandated vaccine schedules

State Rep. Bill Zedler wants to set the record straight.

The Arlington Republican isn’t completely against vaccines.

But he said he is opposed to mandated vaccine schedules and people not knowing exactly what’s in the vaccine and what all the complications could be.

“You need to be able to decide for yourself,” said Zedler, who didn’t cite scientific reasons for wanting to eliminate vaccine schedules and was surprised to learn that many doctors hand out pamphlets detailing potential side effects of vaccinations.

Zedler has drawn national attention — as more measles cases have been reported in Texas this year than in all of last year — since the Texas Observer reported that he said: “They want to say people are dying of measles. Yeah, in third world countries they are dying of measles. Today, with antibiotics and that kind of stuff, they are not dying in America.”

Zedler said he is concerned about the number of measles cases across the country and he knows that antibiotics aren’t used to treat viral infections. But he notes that they are used to treat secondary infections from measles, such as pneumonia.

A poll released Thursday showed 78 percent of Texans believe vaccinations should be required for diseases such as mumps, measles and whooping cough, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll that surveyed 1,200 registered voters on the internet between Feb. 15-24.

On the other hand, 14 percent say the government shouldn’t require those shots. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.83 percentage points.

Measles

Vaccines can be an emotional issue for many, as proponents often are at odds with an anti-vaccine movement that believes parents should choose whether they want to immunize their children.

As for Zedler, he said he had measles as a child, before the vaccine came out in 1963.

“I had the measles. Half my friends had the measles,” he said. “It was a normal childhood illness.”

Measles can lead to pneumonia and swelling of the brain, according to the CDC.

And the first vaccine he received was for polio.

Now, he said, today’s youth face many more doses of vaccine than past generations.

The Texas health department shows that children receive more than 20 vaccinations between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Critics place that number much higher, by counting each vaccine separately, even if three or more are combined in one injection.

“I think we are way over-vaccinated,” he said. “We need to look at this.”

His comments come as the number of measles cases being reported across the country continues to rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Health officials say a vaccination is the best way to prevent getting measles, which is highly contagious and spread through sneezing and coughing.

Between Jan. 1-Feb. 28 this year, 206 cases have been reported in 11 states including Texas, the CDC reports.

That includes six outbreaks, which are defined as three or more cases, reported in New York, Washington, Texas and Illinois because of travelers who brought measles back from other countries, CDC reports show.

In Texas, there have been 10 confirmed measles cases, compared with nine in 2018 and one in 2017, Texas health department statistics show.

Children are on immunization schedules to protect them “before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases,” according to the CDC, which bases the schedule on recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The CDC states that vaccines are tested to make sure they are “safe and effective for children to receive at the recommended ages.”

Vaccinations

Children should receive one dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine when they are 12 to 15 months old and another dose before entering school when they are between 4 and 6, according to the CDC’s schedule.

The CDC lists ingredients in vaccinations on its website as well as a parents guide to immunizations that includes potential side effects.

Texas students must show vaccination records to attend public or private schools or child care centers. But Texas is among 18 states to let families opt out of vaccines for “reasons of conscience,” such as religious beliefs.

In the 2017-18 school year, 56,738, or 1.07 percent of Texas students in kindergarten through grade 12, filed an exemption to opt out of vaccines, according to an annual report by Texas Health and Human Resources. That is up from the previous school year when 52,756, or 0.97 percent, of students filed the exemptions.

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, has filed House Bill 1490, which would make it easier for parents to receive a vaccine exemption form online.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.
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