HealthDay News — Texans who are college-educated, live in suburban or urban areas, have higher median incomes, and are ethnically white are less likely to vaccinate their children, according to a study published online March 10 in PLOS Medicine.
Maike Morrison, from the University of Texas at Austin, and colleagues studied the socioeconomic and geographic drivers of conscientious vaccination exemption (CVE) trends in Texas. Annual counts of CVEs at the school system level from the 2012 to 2013 school year through the 2017 to 2018 school year were used to identify county-level predictors of median CVE percentage among public, private, and charter schools.
The researchers found that since the 2012 to 2013 school year, CVE percentages have increased in 41 out of 46 counties in the top 10 metropolitan areas of Texas. More than three-quarters of the variation in CVE percentages across metropolitan counties (77.6 percent) is explained by median income and by the proportion of the population that holds a bachelor’s degree, self-reports as ethnically white, is English-speaking, and is younger than the age of 5 years old. Counties vary considerably in the proportion of school systems reporting CVE percentages above 3 percent. Two-thirds of this variation (66 percent) is explained by the proportion of the population that holds a bachelor’s degree and the proportion of the population affiliated with a religious congregation. Three of the largest metropolitan areas (Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston) are potential vaccination exemption “hotspots,” with more than 13 percent of local school systems above this risk threshold.
“As public health agencies confront the reemerging threat of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, findings such as ours can guide targeted interventions and surveillance within schools, cities, counties, and sociodemographic subgroups,” the authors write.