Number of State's Unvaccinated Children On the Rise

FEBRUARY 12, 2007 - Posted at 11:41 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The number of unvaccinated school children in Arkansas is growing, as more parents opt out of the immunizations for philosophical reasons.

In 2004-2005, almost more than 1,100 school children opted out of required immunizations.  That's up 381 students from the prior year, according to a study published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

One reason for the increase is an expansion of who can legally opt out of the immunizations.  Before 2003, students could only opt out of the vaccinations for medical or religious reasons.  But the state has since expanded that to include people who oppose the vaccinations for philosophical reasons.

The majority of the exempted students, 721, opted out because of philosophical reasons.  The Eureka Springs and DeWitt school districts reported the highest number of exemptions.

Eureka Springs students were exempted primarily for philosophical reasons, while the DeWitt students opted out for religious reasons.

Officials say only those who go unvaccinated would be at risk if there's an outbreak of a disease such as mumps or measles.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)