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Vaccination Exemptions put Kids at Risk

Monday, 03 Sep 2012 02:36 PM


States with more lenient policies on school vaccination exemptions have higher numbers of children who aren’t immunized, posing a “serious and life-threatening infections threat” to other kids and older individuals who truly should not be inoculated because of underlying conditions, according to new research.
The study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, raises new concerns about the public health impact of the trend against childhood vaccination among many parents.
Researchers from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta evaluated state records for nearly 88,000 medical exemptions from kindergarten entry requirements over seven school years (from 2004-'05 to 2010-'11). They found that, compared to states with more stringent criteria for getting medical exemptions, those with easier requirements had a significant increase in these exemptions.
Their findings suggest that requiring more accountability of both parents and physicians for granting medical exemptions would ensure the exemptions are valid and are not being used as an alternative to non-medical exemptions because they are easier to obtain.
"The appropriate use of medical exemptions is important to maintaining sufficient herd immunity to protect those who should not be vaccinated due to medical contra-indications," said lead researcher Dr. Saad B. Omer. "Medical providers, parents, school officials, and state health officials are responsible for ensuring that medical exemptions are actually medically indicated."
In an accompanying editorial, Daniel A Salmon and Dr. Neal Halsey, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the findings should prompt action from those responsible for implementing and enforcing school immunization requirements at the state and local levels.
"Children with valid medical exemptions need to be protected from exposure to vaccine preventable diseases by insuring high coverage rates among the rest of the population,” they wrote. “Granting medical exemptions for invalid medical contraindications may promote unfounded vaccine safety concerns."



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