PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (CBS12) —The number of measles cases continues to grow – now well over 500 reported across the country. That’s more than the last two years combined.
But as that number gets bigger, the number of kids getting vaccinated in our local schools is getting smaller.
Doctors tell us that puts Florida at a higher risk for its own measles outbreak.
Patrick Walsh had his 7-year-old daughter Maddie vaccinated - but he said battled with that decision.
"It was tough one," Walsh told me in between pushes on the swing at the Burns Road Community Center in Palm Beach Gardens. "We want to be as well-educated as possible. We understand both sides."
The number of parents deciding not to vaccinate their kids is going up. In Florida, it’s required to be vaccinated to go to public schools, unless parents submit a medical or religious exemptions.
CBS12 reached out to our local school districts - in Martin County, the number of exemptions jumped by 200 students over the last year, the total number is now 974 students with exemptions.
And that number mirrors a state wide trend – data from the Florida Department of Health shows religious exemptions in the state *have almost doubled over the last five years - climbing now to almost 25,000 kids.
"When you increase the number of kids that are unvaccinated or under vaccinated you increase the risk for those who are vaccinated to acquire illness," says Dr. Chad Sanborn, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Palm Beach Children's Hospital.
While there has been only one reported case of measles in Florida this year, Dr. Sanborn says with the number of travelers coming to our state that number could go up. Even those kids that are vaccinated, have about 97 percent protection from measles.
"These are vaccine-preventable diseases," says Sanborn. "And if you make the decision to not to vaccinate your child, it’s not an isolated decision, you’re affecting the health of your whole community."
And Patrick believes that whether a parent vaccinates their children or not should be up to them – the parents — but maybe those parents should choose to home school their kids.
"I think we all want our children to be healthy, live long lives and be disease free."
As for what counts as a medical exemption for a vaccine – Dr. Sanborn says it's very uncommon – only kids dealing with auto-immune diseases or those that are allergic to the vaccine should have a medical exemption.