THE ISSUE: A small but increasing number of parents have exempted their children from vaccination requirements.
THE IMPACT: Doctors say immunizations are important to prevent the spread of diseases.
While Massachusetts has one of the highest childhood vaccination rates in the country, there are pockets in the state where increasing numbers of parents are choosing to exempt their children from required immunizations.
“The more people you have that are unimmunized, the more risk there is to them and the population as a whole,” said Dr. Henry Dorkin, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “I have grave concerns over large numbers of people who, for non-medical reasons, are not having their children immunized.”
Massachusetts state law requires that children receive a series of immunizations, including the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine, polio vaccine and the DtaP – or diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine – before entering school. Children with certain documented medical conditions are exempted from receiving live vaccines.
Under state law, parents can also claim an exemption on religious grounds by signing a letter stating that vaccinating their child against disease violates a sincerely held religious belief. Beyond signing the letter, no proof of religious affiliation or belief is required.
Statewide, 1.3 percent of kindergarten students had an exemption in 2016, three-quarters of whom claimed religious exemptions, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Significantly higher concentrations of students with exemptions are clustered on the Cape and Islands and in…
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