BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - An increasing number of Connecticut students are being exempted from vaccinations as parents cite allergic reactions or religious prohibitions.
The Connecticut Post reports (http://bit.ly/Qi0DQY ) that according to the state Department of Public Health, 1,056 children entering kindergarten and seventh grade last year received exemptions. That's up by 127 percent from 2003, when the state recorded 465 such exemptions.
Vaccination coverage in Connecticut remains high, with more than 97 percent receiving various vaccinations.
A medical exemption excuses a child due to an allergic reaction, pediatric cancer or HIV or other immune disorders.
Several possible reasons are cited to explain why exemptions are on the rise, said Dr. Thomas Murray, assistant professor of medical science at Quinnipiac University's Frank H. Netter School of Medicine.
Some parents worry that vaccines could be linked to autism and other health problems in children, but experts have repeatedly said no evidence supports such a link. Another theory, he said, is that vaccines have become so successful that most parents have no experience with measles, polio and other illnesses.
"You're much less likely to feel threatened by something if you don't see it around," Murray said.
Depending on a child's age and grade level, different vaccinations are required before beginning school. Children entering kindergarten in Connecticut this year need to be immunized against diptheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio measles, mumps, and rubella, hepatitis B, chicken pox, hepatitis A and other vaccines.
Some doctors in the region expressed concern about the rise in exemptions.
"If you have more and more kids not getting vaccinated, then you have more and more of a pool for illness to take hold," said Dr. Robert Chessin, a pediatrician at Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Bridgeport and Shelton.
In Connecticut, the state Department of Health said 111 cases of pertussis - a contagious bacterial disease - have been reported this year and that the state could reach a 10-year high. Last year, 68 cases were reported in the entire year.