Rise in vaccine exemptions reported in Connecticut schools

Connecticut is reporting a rise in students who are requesting exemption from vaccinations as parents cite allergic reactions or religious prohibitions.

According to the state's Department of Public Health, exemptions were given to 1,056 children entering kindergarten and seventh grade last year. That is a 127 percent increase from 465 such exemptions in 2003, according to the San Francisco Gate.

Connecticut has a relatively high vaccination rate, with 97 percent receiving various vaccinations. Children can get a medical exemption should they have an allergic reaction, pediatric cancer, HIV or other immune disorders.

Dr. Thomas Murray, an assistant professor of medical science at Quinnipiac University's Frank H. Netter School of Medicine, said that there are various reasons why exemptions are increasing.

Some parents incorrectly believe that vaccines are linked to autism and other health problems, though there is no evidence to support such a link. Additionally, more parents have no experience with measles, polio and other diseases due to the success of the vaccinations.

"You're much less likely to feel threatened by something if you don't see it around," Murray said, the San Francisco Gate reports.

Children are required to get different vaccinations before entering different levels of school. Children entering kindergarten in Connecticut must be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, hepatitis B, chicken pox, hepatitis A and others.

Doctors in the area are worried about the rise in exemptions.

"If you have more and more kids not getting vaccinated, then you have more and more of a pool for illness to take hold," Dr. Robert Chessin, a pediatrician at Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Bridgeport and Shelton, said, the San Francisco Gate reports.

In Connecticut, 111 cases of pertussis have been reported, putting the state on track for a 10 year high, the Department of Health reports. This is an increase from a total of 68 instances of pertussis total last year.