More Parents Signing Personal Belief Vaccine Exemptions

Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 2:53pm

An analysis by the Arizona Department of Health found the number of parents signing personal belief immunization exemptions is up. The exemption doesn't require a medical or religious reason, and that choice could put the community at risk.

In the past two years, the percentage of personal belief exceptions among kindergartners went from 3.9 percent to 4.7 percent. While it may not sound statistically significant, that number varies depending on the type of school a child attends. More than 9 percent of charter school kindergartners had exemptions. Seven and a half percent of private school students in that group were also exempt. Only about three-and-a-half percent of public school kindergartners had a personal belief exemption.

"We tend to see our higher unimmunization rates in our higher socioeconomic areas," said Dr. Cara Christ with the Arizona Department of Health. "And so you may see a decreased rate of immunization in those schools because that’s where we see the pockets of unimmunized kids."

Christ said the department has since updated its vaccine exemption form to educate parents about the risks of their decision. The new form also states that if there is an outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease, like measles at school, that child may not be allowed to attend for up to three weeks. 

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