More parents opting out of vaccines for their school-age students

CYPRESS, TX (KTRK) -- "I was just a mom minding my own business with two boys, you know, the perfect little family."

Michelle Guppy gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy named Brandon, the second of her two sons, 22 years ago.

"I did what the doctors said, we'd go to well checks, we'd have our vaccines," recalled the Cypress mother.

But by the time Brandon was 18 months old, she began to notice regression in his development. Brandon stopped speaking and Guppy noticed him repeatedly banging his head against the wall.

"I was kind of bummed when my pediatrician said, 'You know, this is autism, you just need to go home and love your child,'" Guppy said of Brandon's diagnosis.

Looking for a better answer as to the cause of her son's severe autism, Guppy began to dig through Brandon's health records, including his immunization schedule. It was then that she says she realized a terrible pattern.

"He's having a reaction to each one of these things and I didn't know at the time, I didn't know that, I didn't know to question that," said Guppy.

Looking at his immunization records, Guppy says her son got a double dose of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine at an age when most children have only been given one dose.

Though at one time there was suggestion of a correlation between autism and vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say medical research shows no link between the two. Still, Guppy believes the vaccines are likely the cause of Brandon's condition.

"My son cannot read, write or talk. He has seizures every three days,. He has missed so many milestones," Guppy said. "What I did -- I traded a week of measles for a lifetime of milestones."

Now, Guppy is urging parents to educate themselves before subjecting their children to a prick of the needle.

"We have great moments with our son, we've learned great things, but if I could do it all over again, I would trade all that for the opportunity to have been fully informed and to have refused vaccines," said Guppy.

Since 2003, Texas parents have been able to opt out of vaccinating their children for non-medical reasons. In that time, state health officials have seen a 19-fold increase in the number of unvaccinated students for "reasons of conscience." It is that increase in opt outs that has given way to growing concern unvaccinated children could be putting the health of others at risk.

"These are vaccines that can prevent diseases that can have serious consequences to infants and immunocompromised people," said Dr. LaTanya Love, a pediatrician with UT Health.

In the case of an outbreak, the health commissioner can tell unvaccinated students to stay home. Eyewitness News contacted local school districts with the highest opt-out rates to see if they had plans beyond the measures of the state health commissioner.

Click here to see vaccine opt-out rates by district.

Of those districts that responded to our request, most told us that during the time of an outbreak they urge both sick and unvaccinated students to return to school once a student was healthy.

Health officials maintain the vaccines mandated by the state for school attendance are tried, tested and safe. Still, pediatricians like Dr. Love say every parent should do their research and discuss their vaccine concerns with their own doctor before immunizing their child.

"I am a mom as well, so I understand we all just really want to do the right thing and protect our children," said Love.
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