State figures reported in California show that personal-belief exemptions for vaccinations are dropping: last year they declined among kindergartners, from 3.1% to 2.5%, according to a Fox News report. (This exemption allows parents to opt out of getting their children vaccinated.) The issue is taking prominence again as the state deals with an outbreak of measles that has so far spread to seven states and Mexico.
The law, which took effect last year, requires those claiming a personal-belief exemption to have a signed form from their doctor. This requirement offers some assurance that those opting out have at least spoken with a medical professional and are aware of the risks of skipping the vaccines. Many people who delay or decline the vaccines do so because they believe the now discredited research linking the measles vaccine with autism.
Public health officials are concerned about the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whopping cough due to a growing number of unimmunized schoolchildren. The latest measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland last month spread rapidly, with the majority of the nearly 80 reported cases in California. Most of those who got sick had not received the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine.
Still a scourge in many countries, measles was nearly eradicated in the United States by the year 2000 because of the vaccination. In recent years, the disease has made a comeback because of parents taking the personal-belief exemption that allows children to enroll in school without having received the vaccine.