An Associated Press examination of states' vaccination records and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many states are seeing increases in the rate of religious exemptions claimed for kindergartners.
Sabrina Rahim doesn't practice any particular faith, but she had no problem signing a letter declaring that because of her deeply held religious beliefs, her 4-year-old son should be exempt from the vaccinations required to enter preschool.
She is among a small but growing number of parents around the country who are claiming religious exemptions to avoid vaccinating their children. "Do I think that religious exemptions have become the default? Absolutely," said Dr. Paul Offit, head of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital in
But public health officials say it takes only a few people to cause an outbreak that can put large numbers of lives at risk.
"When you choose not to get a vaccine, you're not just making a choice for yourself, you're making a choice for the person sitting next to you," said Dr. Lance Rodewald, director of the CDC's Immunization Services Division.
From 2003 to 2007, religious exemptions for kindergartners increased, in some cases doubled or tripled, in 20 of the 28 states that allow only medical or religious exemptions, the AP found.
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