SACRAMENTO, CA - The majority of parents vaccinate their children, but the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their kids is increasing, citing medical, personal reasons or religious beliefs.
Information from the Sacramento County Public Health Department shows the number of children who were exempt from vaccinations in 2008 was 375; in 2013 the number of exempt children rose to 850.
"We don't let any children register in our schools without the appropriate vaccinations or the exemptions if they choose," Sacramento City Unified School District spokesperson Gabe Ross said.
The way the law is currently written, parents who want to opt out of immunizations can sign a waiver, exempting their children from getting the otherwise mandated vaccinations to enter kindergarten.
Barbara Loe Fisher is the Co-founder and President of the National Vaccine Information Center, a non-profit organization advocating for informed decisions when it comes to vaccinations.
"It has been very hard for parents of children who have reactions to vaccines, to be able to put their children in school," Fisher said.
Fisher is fighting for children like her son, who had a rare, severe reaction to his fourth DPT shot.
"He was left with minimal brain damage, he had to be put into a self-contained classroom for the learning disabled throughout public schools," Fisher said.
"We believe that vaccinations are very important," Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said. "It's one of the best ways that we have to protect our children from a lot of very serious diseases."
Kasirye said while exemptions are on the rise, the majority of children in Sacramento County are vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 94.5 percent of kindergartners in America were reportedly vaccinated for the 2012-2013 school year.
Ross said the school district is concerned with a small group of parents who choose not vaccinate their children for convenience reasons.
"Parents should understand the vaccinations that their kids need and why they are so important," Ross said.
Starting in 2014, a new California law will modify the process for obtaining exemptions to student immunizations based on personal beliefs. Assembly Bill (AB) 2109 requires documentation that health care practitioners have informed parents about vaccines and diseases.