The spread of a once eradicated, highly-contagious disease has some North Texas pediatricians refusing to treat unvaccinated patients.
The number of measles cases in Texas continues to rise, with the eleventh statewide case in 2019 confirmed in Collin County on Monday. Doctors find the growing number of measles cases alarming.
Dallas pediatrician Dr. Albert Karam knows firsthand how devastating measles can be. He had it at 5 years old.
“High fever. Extreme sensitivity to light, which is known as photophobia, which I had and I could remember screaming and crying as lights turned on,” Karam said.
Karam is helping lead the charge of pediatricians taking a hard stand on requiring patients to receive vaccines. His policy has been in effect since he started practicing in 1986.
“I can't afford to have children in my office who have contagious diseases who will affect children who are regular patients of mine,” Karam said.
Karam is particularly concerned about exposing children too young to be vaccinated to the highly contagious disease -- like six-month old Charlotte Dunklin.
“It's incredibly scary, there are some vaccines that she can't get at this age,” said mom Allie Dunklin.
Karam said his policy is also meant to protect other children who may have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving vaccines.
“I have an obligation, a duty to protect those children first,” Karam said. “I know there's controversy regarding that, as pediatricians do we have a duty to see all the patients and such. But again, I feel a strong obligation to protect those kids who are already in my practice.”
Texas is one of 18 states that allows parents to opt out of the required vaccines for non-medical reasons. Health officials say the latest Collin County case is an adult who traveled overseas, but there was also a confirmed case at Plano West High School last August.
Collin and Denton County opt out rates are about three times higher than Dallas County, where the opt out rate is less than one percent.
Dunklin said she’s grateful for Karam's policy and feels reassured baby Charlotte won't be more at risk of catching a potentially deadly disease at a simple doctor visit.
“There's nothing more heartbreaking than not being able to protect your child against something because of someone else’s ignorance,” Dunklin said.
One anti-vaccine doctor who spoke to FOX4 by phone says she doesn't approve of what's in vaccines or government involvement in requiring them for children.
But Karam insists vaccines are safe and he says parents are now starting to ask about his policy when choosing a doctor -- wanting to make sure unvaccinated children are not treated there.