Vaccine exemptions in San Diego County rise sharply

SAN DIEGO - New numbers obtained by Team 10 show the number of local children not receiving vaccinations continues to climb dramatically.

Before 9-year-old Cameron Kline ever started going to school, his mother made sure he was up to date on his shots.

“When my doctor tells me it's the right thing to do to protect my children, it makes sense,” said Lisa Granger, Cameron’s mother.

It appears more and more parents do not agree.

California law allows parents to exempt children from required immunizations based on personal beliefs, including religion and medical reasons.

Team 10 learned during the current school year, 4.5 percent of kindergarteners were exempted. The number has more than doubled from 2 percent in 2006. 

“Very concerning,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.

Wooten says the new numbers could lead to problems in the near future.

“Our concern is we'll see more outbreaks, and it's not a concern that it will happen,” she said. It's already begun to happen.”

Wooten points to a local measles outbreak in 2008 involving 12 children which was linked to a girl who had not received the vaccine.

Researchers also believe unvaccinated children were a factor in a statewide outbreak of whooping cough in 2010.

The increasing numbers of exemptions come amid a rising number of whooping cough cases in San Diego County.

So far, there have been 154 cases this year. At the same time last year, there were only 33 cases.

While most children who whooping cough did receive vaccinations, some mothers say not vaccinating your child seems dangerous.

“I feel like it's a risk to our children,” said Granger.

In the past few years, Team 10 has spoken with many who do not share that opinion, including Robin Sirota, whose sons did not receive all their vaccines.        

“That's just from the research I’ve done, what I understand and the path I chose,” Sirota told Team 10.

Among the vaccine concerns of some parents is a possible link to autism.

Health officials point to overwhelming research showing no such link.

A few months ago, a new state law went into effect which requires parents who want to opt out to talk with providers.

Wooten says similar laws in other states have led to a decrease in exemptions. She is hoping for a similar impact locally staring next school year.  

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