Vaccination exemptions on rise in Arizona - CBS 5 - KPHO

Vaccination exemptions on rise in Arizona

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The number of parents choosing to not vaccinate their children is on the rise in Arizona.

Vaccine opt-out levels for children entering kindergarten have doubled over the past decade, from 1.4 percent to more than 3 percent of students, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

This trend sparks concern for Dr. Karen Lewis, Medical Director for the Immunization Program Office of ADHS.

"It doesn't make sense that parents wouldn't want to protect their children against life threatening diseases," Lewis said. "I think part of the problem is we've been so successful in controlling diseases with vaccines that parents don't see the disease, and then they get afraid of rumors that they've heard."

Ivy, who wanted her last name withheld, is choosing not to vaccinate her children, Cole, 3, and Brooklyn, 8 months.

"Why vaccinate when it only damages the body, prevents it from cell growth and healthy upbringing, and could cause things like asthma, eczema, and other diseases in the body?" Ivy asked.

Some medical practitioners share Ivy's concerns.

Dr. Martha Grout, of the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, practices both holistic and traditional medicine.

"I would say that [parents] looking at the incidences of autism, developmental delays, or ADHD, are looking at the number of children that are being put on medications, and they're saying, ‘wait a minute - there's something wrong here,'" Grout said.

"I realize that nothing has ever been proven to say that vaccines cause autism or cause developmental delays," Grout acknowledged. "But the instance of serious illnesses from measles is far less than the incidence of serious mental disturbances now. And I suspect the two are connected."

Without scientific evidence, however, the overwhelming majority of the medical community still recommends parents to vaccinate their children.

For Lewis, it is simple.

"Disease is bad, vaccines are good," she said.

"Vaccines help decrease the spread of life threatening diseases. If you stop immunizing, those diseases will come back and you'll have children dying of whooping cough and meningitis, measles and influenza," Lewis said.

But for Ivy, circumstantial evidence found on parenting blogs is evidence enough.

"There is so much information if you just research against vaccines out there," Ivy said. "And just reading the parents' stories - that's enough for me."

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