A Texas megachurch has shifted its stance on immunization, following a measles outbreak among its faithful.

At least 20 members of the Eagle Mountain International Church in North Texas have been diagnosed with measles after a few members of the congregation traveled abroad on a mission trip and contracted the disease. The church is part of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, which has advocated abstaining from vaccinations and immunizations for fear they cause autism.

Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons, daughter of Kenneth Copeland, announced in a sermon last week that the church will be hosting vaccination clinics and urged her congregation to attend. 

Health officials report that exposure to the virus in foreign countries by unvaccinated people is one of the most common ways for outbreaks to occur in the U.S., but that the virus is otherwise largely avoidable due to regular vaccination schedules for children.

In response to the outbreak, Texas remains under an alert issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services, which urges people without a measles vaccine to obtain one.

Coincidently, the outbreak is occurring during National Immunization Awareness Month.

During the initial outbreak, the church released a statement to its faithful, saying their position “regarding dealing with any medical condition involving yourself or someone in your family is to first seek the wisdom of God, His Word, and appropriate medical attention from a professional that you know and trust. Apply wisdom and discernment in carrying out their recommendations for treatment.”

Measles, also known as rubeola, is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory system that is spread through mucus and saliva. The coughing associated with the infection is often enough to put an entire room of people at risk.

Measles outbreaks have been reported in the Seattle area, and cases of whooping cough, another preventable disease, are on the rise due to unvaccinated children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Parents have cited fears of unwanted side effects as a reason to avoid getting their child vaccinated. Most often it’s the fear that the shots will give their child autism, a claim perpetuated by a now-debunked study.

Earlier this year, a CDC study found no evidence connecting autism to vaccination. They also maintain a traveler’s immunization guide for people going abroad.

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