Texas doctor sounding alarm about potential measles outbreak

Vaccinations and your family's safety are taking center stage at the State Capitol as a Texas doctor sounds the alarm about a potential measles outbreak.

"What we've seen in Texas in the last few years is a very alarming trend," Dr. Peter Hotez said.

Dr. Hotez is a vaccine scientist and the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He says he's worried about more and more Texas families opting out of vaccines.

"It could allow a measles epidemic to take hold," Dr. Hotez said. "Measles, I can't emphasis enough, is a deadly and serious disease."

The magic number is 90 percent. Dr. Hotez says if the immunity numbers drop below that it could trigger an outbreak and babies under one year of age would be most at risk.

"Then if you've a mother or a parent with a young baby you have to be terrified about going into shopping malls or going into public libraries or any public space because you're worried your baby is going to get measles," Dr. Hotez said.

Right now, the statewide numbers don't support his fears with only less than one percent of students opting out with a conscientious or religious exemption. But, he says the danger lies in pockets of Texas like Austin.

"In some Texas schools we're reaching more than 10 percent who are opting out," Dr. Hotez said. "And in some private schools 30 to 40 percent who are opting out."

Now State Representative Donna Howard is proposing a bill that would require parents to talk with their pediatrician before they can opt out of vaccines.

"Hopefully there are those when they get this information will decide they don't want to opt out after all, but it will at least be an informed decision," Howard said.

She says the vaccination rates are a concern.

"These are preventable diseases with a simple safe shot basically," Howard said.

Dawn Richardson is not buying it.

"So now she's saying because you're making a different choice than what I think you're uneducated, that's really presumptuous and very arrogant," Richardson said.

Richardson is the director of advocacy for the National Vaccine Information Center. She fought for the conscientious and religious exemption in Texas 2003. Now she is getting ready to fight State Rep. Howard's bill as well.

"It's wrong," Richardson said. "They need to stop bullying and harassing these families and propagating fear about them."

She says parents have the right to question the safety of vaccines.

"Pharmaceutical products are known to cause injury and death and that includes vaccines and people should be respected to make these choices," Richardson said.