Vaccine exemptions for religious reasons on the rise: study

 File photo
Unvaccinated children affect their counterparts who have gotten their shots. Credit: Metro file photo

The number of New York parents who had their child skip at least one required vaccine due to religious reasons increased over the past decade, according to a new study.

What’s more, researchers found counties with high religious exemption rates also had more whooping cough cases — even among children that had been fully vaccinated.

States set their own requirements on which vaccines a child must have received to enter school. All allow exemptions for medical reasons, and most, including New York, also permit parents with a religious objection to forgo vaccination.

Less than half of states permit exemptions due to personal or philosophical beliefs. But those also can get counted under religious views in places with less strict exemption policies.

“Particularly in New York State, I do believe that parents are using religious exemptions for their personal beliefs,” said Dr. Jana Shaw, who worked on the study at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

“There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy.”

Studies have shown cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, have been on the rise across the U.S.

Researchers suspect that’s due to the use of a new type of pertussis vaccine — which is safer, but less effective over the long run — and to more children missing or delaying vaccination.

For their study, Shaw and her colleagues tracked data from the New York State Department of Health on both religious exemptions and new whooping cough cases. Children were reported as having a religious exemption if they had been allowed to skip at least one required vaccine for non-medical reasons.

Between 2000 and 2011, the proportion of religiously exempt kids increased from 23 in 10,000 to 45 in 10,000, the study team reported Monday in Pediatrics.

The number of counties where at least 1 percent of children had a religious exemption also increased, from four to 13. Most of those counties were in western or northern New York.

Higher religious exemption rates were tied to more reported cases of whooping cough. In counties with at least 1 percent exemption, 33 out of every 100,000 children developed pertussis each year, compared to 20 per 100,000 in counties with fewer religious exemptions.

‘Overwhelming evidence’ on safety

Children who had been fully vaccinated were also more likely to get sick in places with high exemption rates.

No vaccine is 100 percent perfect, so infectious disease prevention relies on “herd immunity” – when enough kids are vaccinated that the infection can’t spread.

“If you have enough exempted children in your schools and neighborhood, they will put even vaccinated children at risk,” Shaw told Reuters Health.

Saad Omer, a researcher at Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, said the pattern of increasing non-medical exemptions has been seen in other states as well, including Michigan and California.

Because of the general success of vaccination, “there is less disease to go around and there’s less individual and collective experience. You don’t hear about the disease that often,” he told Reuters Health.

“When that happens, successive cohorts of parents start evaluating the real or perceived risk of vaccines more than the risk of disease.”

But those perceived risks – such as a link between vaccines and autism – have not panned out.

“If you look at the risk-benefit ratio between side effects of vaccines and the benefits they render, it’s not even a close call. It’s hugely, heavily in favor of vaccines,” said Omer, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

Shaw agreed.

“Vaccines are extremely safe, in spite of what the Internet and other sources have argued,” she said. “We have overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe.”

Both Omer and Shaw said they don’t think states and schools should pass judgment on parents’ religious beliefs, but that it shouldn’t be easy to get a vaccine exemption for convenience or personal preference.

And, Omer added, “Those who don’t get [their kids] vaccinated should remember that it’s not a benign choice. There are real disease risks.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.