Texas schools should say how many kids aren’t vaccinated

Photo by Cooper Neill

Watching the news about the Texas Capitol’s Whooping Cough Scare and New York’s unvaccinated children ban has my attention. Aren’t we all trying to do what’s best for our kids? As parents, we want to keep our kids well and safe. We have to make hard choices that not everyone will agree with. I know that, and I know you do, too. However, one of my worst fears as a parent is one of my kids’ classmates bringing a preventable disease like measles or pertussis to school.

The choices we make are based on the best credible information we receive. It’s proven that kids who are not vaccinated are more likely to catch and transmit disease than vaccinated kids. To be able to make the best choices for my kids, I need the Texas Legislature to make schools report the number of unvaccinated students. Schools are given this information as parents register their kids. This information is essential for families like mine.

My son has a critical Congenital Heart Defect (CHD). Surgery at four days of life left him with a weakened immune system. If there’s a sickness in my son’s class, the chances are he will get sick, too. I’ve met so many heart families this year whose kids with CHD are hospitalized over common colds, flus, or stomach viruses. Kids like my son can have trouble fighting off those illnesses which then escalates to something worse. Preventable diseases can kill my child. This is not hyperbole.

We fight for our vaccines and rely on the herd immunity they provide. My kid looks normal from the outside. He’s an introverted first grader in chess club and Math Pentathlon in his school. He loves playing soccer at recess. He gets decent grades and is in the gifted and talented program for math. You’d never know this kid is immunocompromised, except that he gets sick when just about any illness comes around.

Currently, I’m a member of the PTA board where my kids go to school. I volunteer for their classes when I can, and have found a great community in my school. When making the decision to attend this school, there was little information available to a parent like me about the vaccination rates or how often kids get sick. Even now, as an involved parent, when I ask what’s going around the school so we can get my son treated, I’m given the shoulder shrug. New York’s Rockland County is reporting 202 confirmed cases of measles. Most were unvaccinated. Legislators and staff at the Texas Capitol rushed out to get tested and vaccinated after a page, which is normally a student, was found to have whooping cough. Texas has one of the most active anti-vaccine groups. Yet, I’m supposed to fly blind, and it’s terrifying.

We are all doing our best to keep our kids well and safe. Imagine your kid’s best friend hospitalized or dying because a classmate came to school with a bad cough. My kid could be that best friend. That’s a reality I face every day when dropping my kids off. I love our school, but schools need to report vaccination rates so parents can keep their kids safe and well.