Doctors recommend several series of shots for babies in the first year and a half of their lives to protect them from a variety of different diseases, including measles and pertussis, and another round of vaccinations before they go to school.
"I am concerned about the health of children who are not immunized clearly if a communicable disease is introduced into that community they are more likely to become ill for sure there is very good data about that whether it is with Pertussis or Varicella or Measles a whole bunch of different things," said Dr. William Raszka, a pediatrician with Fletcher Allen Health Care and professor of pediatrics at the UVM Medical School.
But some parents choose not to have their children vaccinated; it's called philosophic exemption. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, 5.7 percent of Vermont children are not immunized. Only Oregon has a higher rate.
Philosophical reasons aside, health officials want to make sure parents are making their decisions based on fact, not misinformation.
"Some of the classic myths are that vaccines will lead to autism; that has been disproved on multiple levels by multiple analyses across the world; that it leads to developmental or cognitive issues, that has been debunked in multiple forums across the world, to be honest with you," Raszka said.
The Vermont Health Department has compiled a list of vaccination rates in each public and private school in the state to help track students who are up to date on their vaccinations, students whose parents registered philosophic exemptions and students who have had some vaccinations, but not all.
"Overall, when we look at the results that came out from the CDC and from the reporting from the schools, over 90 percent of all first-graders in public and private schools in the state are vaccinated against each disease that is required. So, we have some good work going on; a majority of all students are vaccinated," said Chris Finley, the immunization program manager with the Vt. Department of Health.
But work continues to get the word out about the importance of vaccinations.
"Oh, we had definitely made strides and there is a lot going on," Finley said. "One of the biggest things is we have been working with the schools. One of the things we have seen is the provisional admittance rate-- in other words the number of kids who come to school that don't have an exemption and we don't know whether they have had a vaccine-- went down from over 10 percent to 7 percent."
The Health Department has launched an online campaign to further educate the public about vaccinating all children and to have open conversations with their pediatricians about their concerns, and hopefully come away with this message:
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