MONDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who opt out of vaccinating their children are putting their own kids and others around them at risk of serious illness, finds a study conducted in New York.
Almost twice as many parents in New York sought religious exemptions from vaccination in 2011 compared to 12 years earlier, and cases of whooping cough (pertussis) increased simultaneously, the study found.
"The reason for the rising rates for religious exemptions is unknown. Our preliminary results suggest that it's not for religious reasons alone," said study senior author Dr. Jana Shaw, an assistant professor of pediatrics at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.
Counties with exemption rates of 1 percent or more experienced higher rates of whooping cough in both unvaccinated and vaccinated children -- 33 cases per 100,000 children on average compared to 20 cases per 100,000 in counties with lower exemption rates, the study found.
Statewide, the rate of exemptions grew from 0.23 percent to 0.45 percent between 2000 and 2011, Shaw said, noting that the total number is still low. "But some counties are much higher -- up to 5.58 percent," said Shaw, whose results were released online June 3 in the journal Pediatrics.
New York State requires that children attending its schools be immunized for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox), according to background information included in the study.
The state's education department allows children to attend schools without the required vaccinations if the family has religious reasons for not doing so. Implementation of the exemptions is left up to the principals in each school, Shaw said.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that attacks the respiratory system. In 2012, the United States had the most whooping cou
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