More Arizona parents are opting out of vaccinations

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Department of Health Services is seeing an increase in parents filling out personal beliefs exemption forms to opt out of getting their children vaccinated.

"It's incredibly concerning," ADHS Bureau Chief Jessica Rigler said. "Over the last decade we've seen a rise from 1.6 percent exemptions to 4.7."

While the percentage may not seem high, the department said that increasing the non-vaccinated population by 1 to 2 percentage points puts the whole community at risk. Rigler said the department has already seen some examples of that.

"In the case of measles, we call one case an outbreak," Rigler said. "So we've had measles outbreaks due to non-vaccinations, as well."

The University of Arizona looked into why parents choose to opt out, and the reasons vary from religious to medical to mistrust of the companies manufacturing the vaccines and more.

"Links of vaccines to autism, which we know has been proven false," Rigler said. "There's also some mistrust out there sometimes and different sources of information people are getting."

Most, but not all, of the parents 3TV spoke with on the topic on Monday choose to vaccinate.

"I'm all for all the kids getting their shots and they just need to, I think," Lyonel Jumbo said.

"I trust my pediatrician wholeheartedly and -- not that I go into it blindly -- but the doctor knows best, I think," Tracee Winters said. "Also, I think it's more than that. You're affecting other children,"

"Personally, for me, I would always choose to vaccinate my child, but I think it's definitely an individual basis," Melissa Fox said.

Julie Moody is a mother of seven. She says she chooses not to vaccinate her children because, in her opinion, there's just not enough research to show all the suggested immunizations do more good than harm.

"I'm worried about the harmful effects of it and I think 56 to 64 shots by the time they're age 5 is just too many," Moody said.

Moody said she focuses on preventative measures, such as what her kids eat and even what they put on their bodies.

"I do everything I can to keep my kids healthy, preventative wise," she said.

Moody said it's working so far and that her kids are hardly ever sick. Still, the growing number of parents doing what Moody is doing has the state concerned.

Rigler told 3TV that as the vaccination rate dips there is an increased likelihood of diseases spreading through a community.

"Vaccines are really a social contract, in addition to an individual protection factor," Rigler said. "So when you or your kid don't get vaccinated, you're able to spread to people who can't be vaccinated for a variety of reasons."

The state has an action plan in place to try and curb the increase in exemptions.


Arizona Department of Health Services:

Trends in immunization

Action Plan to Address Increasing Vaccine Exemptions

2014 - 2015 Arizona School Immunization Requirements