Community Issues

Report: Thousands of Students Enter School Without Proper Vaccines or Exemption

States are taking a closer look at vaccination practices amid national measles outbreak.

A new report from the Associated Press reveals that thousands of kindergarten students across the United States are unvaccinated, and their parents have provided no documentation for religious or philosophical exemptions.

The report found that the majority of unvaccinated or undervaccinated kindergartners in at least 10 states enrolled provisionally for the last school year, according to data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reasons for the lack of vaccinations can range from poor access to health care, to apathy on the part of the parents, to objections to vaccines. State laws often require the vaccines to start school, but do not require following up or tracking the student's health records later.

"It really could just be, I didn't have time to go to the doctor, or I just don't want to do this," said Melissa Arnold, CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics Ohio chapter. "From a public health standpoint, we really don't know."

Cindy Findley, Pennsylvania's acting deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention, told the AP the grace period for students to get vaccinated has been reduced from eight months to five days.

Last week, lawmakers in Pennsylvania introduced a bill that would regulate vaccine exemptions by creating a standardized request form which would need to be signed by a doctor . A doctor or health care provider would need to explain the impacts and consequences of not getting vaccinated to a student's parents before signing.

Arkansas has the highest rate of unvaccinated children without an exemption, and according to the report, the primary issue is access. The majority of children in the state are on Medicare, and many counties lack a "vaccine infrastructure" that makes it convenient for parents to get their children the shots.

The increased scrutiny of vaccination rates comes as health officials are battling a major measles outbreak. According to the CDC, there have been 940 confirmed measles cases in 26 states, making this the worst measles outbreak since 1994.

The Allegheny County Health Department is operating an immunization clinic, located at 425 First Avenue, Fourth Floor, in downtown Pittsburgh. Clinic hours are: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 9 AM-4 PM and on Wednesday: 1-8 PM .

You can also talk to your doctor about a vaccine, or click here for more information on the vaccine and where to get it .

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