Most area schools, districts have high vaccination compliance rates

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(KWTX) An annual report issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services Immunization Unit, (IU), says Central Texas school districts, for the most part, are showing high numbers of students who've been vaccinated against several diseases.

"We work closely with our schools to make sure every student has vaccinations up to date," Kelly Crane, with the Waco-McLennan County Health District said.

The annual report sheds light on areas internal to some schools that might need some extra attention, Crane said.

By far most of the public and accredited private schools in Bell, Coryell and McLennan counties score in the high 90th percentile when identifying students in the fourth and seventh grades who've received Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines as the state's schedule recommends.

Crane said there are no reported cases of any of those illnesses in McLennan County this year and none has been reported in Bell or Coryell counties, either.

"But it's here, they're out there," Crane said, they just haven't presented in cases yet.

"School nurses are sharp on that and they keep close watch," Crane said.

"We believe children are getting vaccinated routinely and we feel like we have a handle on that, but we don't really know how vulnerable the adult population is," she said.

Several schools in the region, in fact, report that 100 percent of fourth grade students have been vaccinated.

Texas requires public school districts and accredited private schools to submit an annual report of students' immunization status and the data are used to measure immunization coverage among kindergarten and seventh grade students.

The survey also provides the state with data about how many students go unvaccinated and why, including the number of all students (K-12) with a conscientious vaccination exemption affidavit on file.

The results of this report assist the unit in identifying schools, districts, and counties with low immunization coverage rates and those with high rates of non-compliance (i.e. students delinquent for requirements).

"We just need to make sure every child is vaccinated," Crane said.

Specifically, five Coryell County schools forwarded data to IU that showed only the Oglesby ISD reported 100 percent of students in the fourth grade received the six vaccinations.

Fourteen schools in Bell County reported data to IU and of that number, three, including Killeen's Memorial Christian Academy and St Joseph's Catholic School and St. Mary's Catholic School in Temple, reported 100 percent fourth grade vaccination compliance for 2018-2019.

Providence Preparatory School, in Belton, reported 83.3 percent compliance across the board, which was the lowest percentage in Bell County, the state report shows.

In McLennan County data were reported for 26 schools and eight of them, including Bosqueville ISD, Bruceville-Eddy ISD, Gholson ISD, Hallsburg ISD, Mart ISD, St. Louis Catholic School and St. Paul's Episcopal School, both in Waco, and St. Mary's Catholic School, in West, all reported 100 percent compliance in the fourth grade, the report shows.

Live Oak Christian School, in Waco, reported the lowest scores, which ranged from 65.5 percent to 86.2 percent compliance, according to IU numbers.

Compared to the 2017-2018 school year, statewide kindergarten students have slightly lower coverage as reports of conscientious exemptions increased slightly in 2018-2019, while delinquency and provisional enrollment decreased, the IU report says.

IU sends the annual report packet to 1,182 public school districts and 948 accredited private schools in Texas, which is intended to capture the immunization status of students.

"The survey collects aggregated data on the immunization status of the students, including the reasons why a child is not vaccinated according to the Texas school entry requirements, and the total number of conscientious exemption affidavit forms filed at the public school district or private school," the just issued report says.

Of the schools that responded to the 2018-2019 annual report, roughly 94 percent, 64,176 kindergarten through 12th grade students were identified as having a conscientious exemption for at least one vaccine on file at reporting schools, which represents 1.20 percent of the number of students enrolled by schools in the survey.

For most vaccines, kindergarten coverage statewide decreased by approximately 0.1 percentage points from the previous school year and kindergarten conscientious exemption rates increased by at least 0.3 percentage points in every vaccine category.

For seventh grade students, vaccination coverage improved in the 2018- 2019 school year for the Tdap, meningococcal and varicella vaccines and seventh grade conscientious exemption rates increased slightly, by 0.1 percentage points for most vaccines while delinquency rates decreased by 0.01 to 0.7 percentage points.

Vaccine-preventable diseases
(Source: Texas Dept. of State Health Services)

Diphtheria: a very contagious bacterial disease of the respiratory system that can be rapidly spread from person to person from an infected person's cough or sneeze.

In serious cases the illness can result in coma, paralysis or death.

Hepatitis A: an infection in the liver caused by hepatitis A virus spread primarily person to by mouth from contact with contaminated objects, food, or drinks.

In the U.S., about 100 people a year die from hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B: a flu-like illness with loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, rashes, joint pain, and jaundice.

Symptoms of acute hepatitis B include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, pain in joints and stomach, dark urine, grey-colored stools, and jaundice (when skin and eyes turn yellow).

Human papillomavirus: a common virus prevented by HPV vaccination common in people in their teens and early 20s and it infects about 14 million people each year.

Influenza: a highly contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs that is easily spread through droplets in coughs or sneezes and can cause mild to severe illness, but can easily be avoided by the annual influenza vaccine.

Influenza may lead to hospitalization or even death, even among previously healthy children.

Measles: one of the most contagious viral diseases, is spread by direct contact with the airborne respiratory droplets of an infected person and the virus is so nasty that just being in the same room after a person who has measles has already left can result in a new infection.

Measles can also cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, or death.

Meningococcal disease: prevented by meningococcal vaccination, has two common outcomes: meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and bloodstream infections.

About one of every 10 people who gets the disease dies from it and survivors of meningococcal disease may lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become developmentally disabled, or suffer seizures or strokes.

Mumps: an infectious disease caused by the mumps virus, which is spread in the air by a cough or sneeze from an infected person.

The mumps virus causes swollen salivary glands under the ears or jaw, fever, muscle aches, tiredness, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite and only in extremely rare cases results in complications.

Pertussis: also known as whopping cough, spreads very easily through coughing and sneezing and can result in a severe cough makes someone gasp for air after intense coughing fits.

Pertussis can be deadly for babies who are too young to receive the vaccine and often times infants are exposed by their older siblings.

About half of children younger than 1 who get pertussis require hospitalization and some babies with pertussis can get pneumonia, have seizures, become brain damaged, or even die.

Pneumonia: an infection of the lungs caused by the bacteria called "pneumococcus," can be fatal or result in long-term problems like brain damage and hearing loss.

The bacteria are spread when people cough or sneeze and some people, known as carriers, have the bacteria in their nose or throat at one time or another without being ill but still can pass it along.

Polio: a virus that lives in an infected person's throat and intestines and can be spread through contact with the stool of an infected person or through droplets from a sneeze or cough.

In about 1 percent of cases the virus causes paralysis and studies show that between two and 10 children out of 100 die because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe.

Rubella: caused by a virus that is spread through coughing and sneezing and in children usually results in a mild illness with fever, swollen glands, and a rash that lasts about 3 days.

Rubella, however, rarely causes serious illness or complications in children, but can be very serious to a baby in the womb and if a pregnant mom gets infected, the result for the baby can be devastating, including miscarriage, serious heart defects, mental retardation, and loss of hearing and eyesight.

Tetanus: a virus that attacks mainly muscles in the neck and belly where toxins it produces cause muscles to painfully constrict, leading to a condition commonly called "lock-jaw" that prevents the person from opening his or her mouth, swallowing and eventually breathing.

The bacteria that cause tetanus are found in soil, dust, and manure and commonly enter the body through an open wound, like a puncture, cut, or sore on the skin.

Two of 10 people who contract tetanus die and recovery for others can take months.

Varicella: Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus, is very contagious and spreads very easily through either a cough or sneeze or from contact with blisters on the skin, either by touching them or by breathing in emitted viral particles.

Chickenpox usually is mild, but it can lead to severe skin infections, pneumonia, encephalitis or even death.