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Johnson Co. Seeing Rise in Vaccine Exemptions

JOHNSON COUNTY, IA (CBS2/FOX28)--Johnson County health officials are trying to raise awareness about the importance of vaccinations.

They say they're seeing a slight uptick in the number of families choosing not to vaccinate their children.

It's state law that students attending licensed schools show proof of immunization, but there are cases where some receive religious or medical exemptions to that law.

Based on the 2012 through 2013 school year, those cases are rising in Johnson County.

There are 24 children at Melrose Day Care in Iowa City; every one of them is vaccinated.

Janet Coapstick has been working here for about 26 years.

She's rarely seen cases of parents opting out of vaccinating their kids.

"Only once have I had a family that their kids weren't vaccinated, probably about 15 years ago,” said Janet Coapstick, daycare director.

She says if the same thing were to happen today, they'd follow the same procedure.

"We can give them all the brochures that we are given, but if you have an exemption we will take you,” said Coapstick.

Johnson County Public Health officials say the same goes with local schools.

Families with exemptions can enroll their kids, and now more of them are getting those exemptions.

"It's a very small percentage, but there's definitely a trend for more of that so there is not a large health concern at this point, but it's kind of bothersome,” said Douglas Beardsley, Director Johnson County Public Health.

Data shows that 329 families of K through 12 students received medical and religious exemptions in the 2012 to 2013 school year in Johnson County.

Beardsley says the increase could be attributed to various beliefs. One of them being that the vaccines could lead to autism. He says studies have disproved that belief.

"We encourage folks to become educated, learn how vaccines work, but really look at the science based evidence to show their safety and their efficacy,” he said.

We reached out to folks at the East Central Autism Society to comment but they chose not to citing privacy concerns.
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