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Many Parents Skipping Kids' Shots, Putting Other Kids at Risk
Date:10/31/2011

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- By signing an affidavit that says "all or some immunizations are contrary to my beliefs," California parents can bypass requirements that their children be fully immunized before attending school, and new research indicates that many are choosing to do so.

The new study shows that at some "hot spot" schools, one out of every five kindergarten students is now going unvaccinated by parental choice -- putting not only these kids at risk of preventable infectious diseases, but also other children at the school.

These are schools "where we might be concerned that 'herd immunity' has been compromised," warned lead study author Alison Buttenheim, an assistant professor in family and community health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

"Herd immunity is the protection offered to unimmunized people when most people are immunized or otherwise unsusceptible," she explained. "For example, our herd immunity against measles protects infants, up to age 1, who are too young to receive the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] shot."

Buttenheim added that "schools are an important site of exposure for children. All of our measures point to increasing exposure to intentionally unvaccinated children among California kindergarteners, a worrisome trend."

The new finding was slated for presentation Monday at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C. It comes on the heels of recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) findings that with more unvaccinated kids, the United States is now experiencing its largest measles outbreak in 15 years. Experts have also blamed a recent resurgence in cases of whooping cough (pertussis), especially in California, on declining child vaccination rates.

Twenty states currently allow "personal belief exemptions" when it comes to child vaccinations:
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