Texas cities are vaccine opt-out 'hot spots' for kindergartners

These 12 U.S. states have record rates of unvaccinated kindergartners

A new study has found that four Texas cities are among those in the country with the highest number of kindergartners not getting vaccinated for non-medical reasons.

A new report in the medical journal PLOS Medicine finds Idaho is home to almost every county among the top 10 in states allowing non-medical exemptions for childhood immunizations.

"Vaccine exemptions for reasons of personal belief have caused a lot of damage in terms of facilitating breakthrough measles epidemics", said study co-author Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. In recent years, multiple outbreaks of measles - once considered eliminated by the CDC in 2000 - have popped up.

The authors emphasize that 90 to 95 percent vaccine coverage is needed to protect children from measles, citing the 2014-15 outbreak linked to Disneyland in California that was associated with low vaccination coverage.

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As a result, the researchers identified 15 metropolitan clusters of higher rates of vaccination exemptions - where more than 5 percent of all kindergarten-age children are unvaccinated - which correlated with lower rates of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination coverage. People can become infected by breathing in droplets or touching a contaminated surface and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Herd immunity helps protects everyone in the community, including newborns, people with compromised immune systems and other individuals who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons, researchers note. And in those states, the high exemption rate is putting kids at risk for contracting and spreading vaccine-preventable pediatric diseases including whooping cough and measles.

The study wasn't a controlled experiment created to prove whether or how non-medical exemptions might contribute to outbreaks of measles or other vaccine-preventable diseases. The top five counties on the list are all in the Gem State.

Now 18 states in the US permit non-medical exemptions from childhood vaccinations due to philosophical beliefs.

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