Surge in unvaccinated children alarms health officials

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Used to be that vaccinations were considered to be a normal part of childhood. But for a lot of kids, that’s no longer the case.

State law says parents must vaccinate their children against measles, whooping cough, polio, chicken pox and a host of other diseases. But parents who object because of their personal beliefs can get exemptions. And those exemptions are soaring.

An analysis by the L.A. Times finds that California parents are opting out of vaccinations for their kindergarten-age children at twice the rate they did seven years ago. The number of kindergartens in which at least 8 percent of students are not fully vaccinated has doubled as well. The 8 percent threshold is important because health experts say that’s the level at which communities become more vulnerable to widespread outbreaks of disease.

provaccineTimes reporters Paloma Esquivel and Sandra Poindexter say state officials blame recent outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in part on insufficient vaccination.

“High vaccination levels in the U.S. have helped millions of children avoid serious diseases and saved tens of thousands a year from paralysis, birth defects and death, experts say. But the risk of infectious disease remains a concern. Recent measles cases, for example, were brought into the country by travelers and quickly spread to several unvaccinated individuals.”antivaccine

The anti-vaccination movement is led by parents who question whether vaccinations are safe, despite virtual consensus in the medical community in favor of immunization.

The number of immunization exemptions varies widely by area and school. In the LAUSD, the exemption rate was just 1.6 percent last year. In the Santa Monica-Malibu school district it was almost 15 percent.