Vaccine exemptions on the rise in California

According to research presented at the American Public Health Association's 139th annual meeting on Thursday, increasing rates of unvaccinated young children with "personal belief exemptions" from vaccination requirements are becoming worrisome.
Researchers found that in 2010, California had approximately 11,500 kindergartners with personal belief exemptions, representing a 25 percent increase over the previous two years. The increasing rate indicates that for kindergartners who have stuck to vaccination schedules, exposure to children with these exemptions is about 2.3 per 100 children, Medscape Medical News reports.
A higher-risk combination of 15.6 per 100 children was found in children with exemptions exposed to other children who have exemptions. The rate is higher because exempted children tend to be found in clusters.
"Measles cases were very low in the U.S. until 2008, when rates jumped up," Alison Buttenheim, the lead author of the study, said, according to Medscape Medical News. "Things calmed down again but then they jumped up again in 2010. We are very close to 200 cases in the U.S. this year. Meanwhile, this a disease that we thought we had eradicated. Currently, the only thing parents need to do to get a personal belief exemption in California is sign their name on the back of the form and fill in the date. What we would like to do is make the exemptions a little harder [to get] and adhering to the vaccination schedule a little easier."
The leading vaccination concern of parents in a separate study conducted by the same team was that vaccines "overtax" the immune system at 16 percent. Other concerns included the rarity of vaccine-preventable diseases at 10 percent, a preference for natural immunity at seven percent and autism at five percent. The results indicated that as many as 40 percent of parents had more than one concern.
"I think (the increased rates) show how personal belief exemptions are a growing problem in California, how exposure is becoming even more common for those vaccinated, and that the increase and distribution of personal belief exemptions among children is a significant public health issue," Wiley Jenkins, the moderator of the session, said, according to Medscape Medical News.