A study finds an increase in non-medical vaccine exemptions in 12 of the 18 states that allow children's exclusion from vaccinations because of philosophical beliefs.
A noticeable percentage of the uptick was observed in many metropolitan areas in the country. The increase was identified based on the number of unvaccinated children enrolling in kindergarten.
The research team behind the study called these areas as "hotspots" where outbreaks of supposedly preventable diseases are higher. Children in these areas are more prone to contract diseases or to increase the probability of contagion.
The study also noted a link between the higher rates of unvaccinated children and the lower rates of kids getting measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine or MMR.
With the result of the study, the researchers are calling the attention of public health leaders to be more critical of the growing anti-vaccine movement within these identified hotspots.
US Hotspots Of Unvaccinated Children
Non-medical exemptions from childhood vaccinations based on philosophical beliefs are increasing in Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.
There are 15 counties located in metropolitan areas that are found to have the highest rate of unvaccinated children. Specifically, these counties have estimated 400 unvaccinated kindergartens. These areas are Seattle, Spokane, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Provo, Houston, Fort Worth, Plano, Austin, Troy, Warren, Detroit, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh.
"A social movement of public health vaccine opposition has been growing in the United States in recent years; subsequently, measles outbreaks have also increased," the team wrote in a Policy Forum article in PLOS Medicine.
The researchers from the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development highlighted the need for stricter legislative actions against the apparent social movement.
"Our concern is that the rising [non-medical exemptions] linked to the anti-vaccine movement in the US will stimulate other countries to follow a similar path," the researchers said.
The Risk Of Unvaccinated Children
The study said that a child without MMR vaccine has 35 times more risk of contracting measles than a kid who is vaccinated. This is particularly alarming because infants and some people with certain medical conditions cannot receive the MMR vaccine. Once the deliberately unvaccinated children got infected by measles, they also increase the risk of contaminating those who are not vaccinated due to medical reasons.
The study said that to be able to protect the individuals who cannot receive the vaccine, 90 to 95 percent of the population should be vaccinated. With the growing anti-vaccination movement, this goal is impossible to achieve. Another concern is that their study was not able to look into the number of unvaccinated children who are being homeschooled.
Peter Hotez, one of the study's authors, said that some parents are choosing not to vaccinate their kids because of the false notion that vaccines cause autism or other neurodevelopmental problems. Hotez emphasized that there is no truth behind this belief and that he has been, in fact, at hard work raising awareness against this false belief.