PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona parents have the choice to avoid immunizations and still enroll their child in a public school. It's called a personal belief exemption.
To be granted that waiver, however, you might first have to participate in an online immunization education course. That class is part of a pilot program by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The hope is that the information will lead parents to reconsider and get their children vaccinated.
"What we are seeing in Arizona is dangerously low vaccination of our children," said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. "We know 6 out of 10 kindergarten classes are not adequately immunized against measles."
The goal is to make sure parents understand the importance of vaccinations before they get the personal exemption form.
"We want to make sure that people have accurate, fact-based, scientifically-backed information," Christ explained.
The online video is part of a pilot that ran in 245 schools this year.
Parents had to watch the video before they could get the exemption form. The video runs anywhere from 25 to 75 minutes depending on the number of diseases and vaccination exemptions a family wants.
The Chandler Unified School District is participating in the state pilot program.
"When a parent comes into the health office and asks for an exemption form we give them a flyer that says how to get to the state website, how to watch the video, and how to get the exemption form through that means," said Lyndsay Hartley, the district's health services manager. "My hope is it made a difference."
The Arizona Department of Health Services tried this once before with a significantly smaller sample size. The pilot received mixed reactions and limited results, so it was revamped and relaunched for the 2019 school year.
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Some parents welcome the additional information.
"I do not think the internet is the best place to get all the facts; not everything on the internet is true," said Fredy Carhuayo, whose 8-year-old son is not up to date on vaccinations. "As a parent, you're trying to figure out what's best and it's like sometimes you don't know what to do."
The hope is the immunization education course makes the choice an easy one for parents.
"Our hope is to increase vaccination levels in Arizona," Christ said. "And to reduce personal belief exemptions by educating parents about the dangers of the diseases that their children might not be vaccinated against."
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