Parents weigh in on vaccination debate after toddler tests positive for measles

Texas Children's Hospital has fired a nurse after she apparently posted about a toddler who tested positive for measles on social media. 

A spokesperson for Texas Children's Hospital said, "We were made aware that one of our nurses posted protected health information regarding a patient on social media. We take these matters very seriously as the privacy and well-being of our patients is always a top priority. After an internal investigation, this individual is no longer with the organization."

Texas Children's Hospital's West Campus said a male patient between the age of one and 3 years old, tested positive for measles. It's unclear if the toddler had previously been vaccinated, but the Houston Health Department said the toddler had a history of traveling abroad. 

The Houston Health Department says the best way to prevent infectious diseases like measles is through vaccinations. 

The last confirmed case of measles in Houston was in 2013, according to the City's Health Department.

Measles is a highly contagious disease and could lead to something much more serious than just a fever or a rash. 

"It can have serious complications. It could lead to pneumonia, brain damage, deafness and in some cases, even death," said Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesperson for the Houston Health Department.

Erin Hettick has five kids, ranging in age from five months to eight years old. Hettick said all five of her kids have been vaccinated and she worries that those who haven't, are putting her kids at risk. 

"We all have to comply with those with severe peanut allergies and part of me feels like we should be notified if someone is not vaccinating. So that we can protect our children. If things that can be prevented aren't being chosen, then you're putting other people at risk-- especially those like my daughter who's medically fragile. It becomes a problem," Hettick said.

Jackie Schlegel is the Executive Director of Texans for Vaccine Choice, an organization advocating for a pro-choice approach for parents when it comes to vaccines. Schlegel said the movement is made up of roughly 6,500 members that aim to protect and advance informed consent, medical privacy and vaccine choice. 

"We're not an anti-vaccine organization. We've never supported any legislation to take away anybody's rights or access to vaccines," Schelegel said.

According to data from the CDC's annual National Immunization Survey, Houston has a 94.5 percent measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination rate-- that's higher than the average of Texas at 89.8 percent and the US at 91.1 percent. 

The CDC recommends kids get their first MMR vaccine between the ages of 12 and 15 months, and their second MMR vaccine between 3 and 6 years old.

The measles vaccine is 93 percent effective with the first dose, and 97 percent effective with the second dose, according to the CDC.

Texas law allows kids to get an exemption from immunizations because of religious beliefs and other reasons of 'conscience."

According to data from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the number of Houston-area kids in grades K-12 that opted out of vaccinations last school year is low. 

Percent of kids exempt from vaccinations in Houston's five largest school districts: 

  • Houston ISD: 0.51%
  • Fort Bend ISD: 0.68%
  • Cy-Fair ISD: 1.04%
  • Katy ISD: 1.38%
  • Aldine ISD: 0.52%

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