Other Voices

Childcare centers need Texas Legislature’s clarity on vaccinations

MMR vaccine is safe, effective American Academy of Pediatrics says

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson—a pediatrician, mother and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics—offer some answers about the safety and efficacy of the MMR vaccine.
Up Next
Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson—a pediatrician, mother and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics—offer some answers about the safety and efficacy of the MMR vaccine.

I am proud to oversee a child care center in Texas. I have dedicated over 20 years to caring for, protecting and educating young children.

Because of this, the parents of the children in my center can go to work every day knowing their children are safe and well cared for. Early childhood education makes Texas work — literally.

Recently, child care providers across Texas were shocked to learn that the state’s growing anti-vaccine movement has focused its efforts on childcare centers. Parents who choose to not vaccinate want to send their children to my center, and to other child care centers.

Not only could this idea put my center out of business, it could also seriously sicken or possibly kill the children in my care, especially those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Child care providers like me need clarity about what we can tell potential and current families about the immunization rates at our centers. Parents researching child care options will often ask about my center’s immunization rate. They can look up our licensing history with the state. They can read online reviews on a growing number of web sites. These parents also want to know the percentage of vaccinated children in a center because they want reassurance their child will be in a safe and healthy environment.

Many vaccine-preventable diseases can be fatal to young children. Infants as young as six weeks old entering care are too young for all their vaccinations. Young children are likely to use their hands to wipe their noses or rub their eyes. They put toys in their mouths. They play very closely with peers. They are the perfect vectors for infectious disease. Plus, staff and family members going from one classroom to another can spread infection further.

Anti-vaccine activists also ignore the impact of their choice on the adults at child care centers. Our workforce is young and overwhelmingly female. Many of my employees are in their child-bearing years; they and their unborn children are particularly vulnerable to infectious disease.

Many of the families in our center have multiple children, including infants, meaning that diseases brought home from school could have a devastating effect at home. Home-based centers have the additional burden of sharing the same space with their family members.

It is important, in the best interest of children, that child care centers do not become pockets of unvaccinated children. An outbreak in a center would be disastrous on so many levels. Besides the human toll of people getting sick, businesses would be destroyed. Families would be afraid, current families would immediately find child care elsewhere and children’s learning during the critical years of brain development would be disrupted.

Early care and education is a difficult business. Most centers are small and struggle to stay open. It’s imperative we have clear legislation about what child care centers are allowed to share. I applaud Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, and Sens. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, and Beverly Powell, D-Burleson, for filing House Bill 1966 and Senate Bill 873 to help people such as me protect our businesses and the children we serve. Without this clarity in law, we can be intimidated by parents who do not want to vaccinate their children for non-medical reasons.

I do not support forced vaccination of children. However, if you and your family choose to become a part of our community, we hope you will respect the health and well-being of our community.

Owners and directors of child care centers should have the right to create and share policies for their children based on the needs and desires of their customers and potential customers, just like any other business. Child care centers will be most successful if children who can be vaccinated are vaccinated.

Cori Berg is a childcare director in North Texas.