Friday August 16, 2013

BURLINGTON (AP) -- A survey by the Vermont Health Department shows that about 87 percent of students going into kindergarten have had a full round of vaccines, which is the same as last year.

The survey also shows that about 5.5 percent of kindergarten students did not get at least one of the shots because of a philosophical exemption, which is the second-highest rate in the country, Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said.

In a few schools, the rate of exemptions is up to 35 percent.

"In some schools the culture of those parents who make the decision not to be vaccinated and to fill out that philosophical exemption is even higher," the commissioner told Vermont Public Radio (http://bit.ly/16by2GJ). "That’s an area we can focus some of our efforts in terms of our school health liaison to try to focus their efforts in education on that population and those parents."

The issue has been controversial in Vermont. In the past legislative session, a bill passed the House that would have made it harder for parents to have their children exempt from Vermont’s mandatory immunization law based on either medical, religious and philosophical reasons.

But the Senate rejected the legislation after a group of parents raised concerns about the health effects of immunizations. Instead, legislators called for a survey of immunizations compliance rates of all Vermont schools.

Children must get vaccines for DTaP, which is diptheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio, MMR -- measles, mumps and rubella; hepatitis B and chicken pox to be considered fully immunized.

Chen hopes communities will review the survey results, which include a breakdown by school.