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Number of students getting vaccination exemptions on the rise

DAVENPORT, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Public Health says there's been an increase over the last decade in the number of students exempt from the state's vaccination requirements.

"This trend is consistent with what is occurring throughout the nation," said Don Callaghan, Bureau Chief of the Iowa Department of Public Health.

According to a 2015-2016 audit on immunizations across Iowa from the Iowa Department of Public Health, total enrollment in Scott County was 29,937 students grade kindergarten through 12th grade; 67 students got a Certificate of Medical Exemption and 646 students got a Certificate of Religious Exemption.

"The Department continues to monitor immunization exemption rates to identify trends and groups of unimmunized children. Immunization rates in Iowa are consistent with or exceed national averages. Communities with pockets of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated students are at an increased risk for outbreaks and are an ongoing concern," said Callaghan.

For students in Iowa to get a medical exemption, a Certificate of Immunization Exemption must be signed by a parent or guardian and a licensed Physician (Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathic), Physician Assistant, or Nurse Practitioner.

For students in Iowa to get a religious exemption, a Certificate of Immunization Exemption must be signed by a parent of guardian and must be notarized.

The Iowa code does not specify religious denominations eligible for religious immunization exemptions.

"It's very difficult to determine why a parent chooses a religious exemption," said Roma Taylor, Clinical Services Coordinator for the Scott County Health Department. She said there is not a large population of children that have either medical or religious exemptions in Scott County.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health,  a religious exemption may be granted to a student if the immunization conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief and the belief is in fact religious and not based merely on philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to immunizations.

"It's important we get the information out to parents that it's important to get their kids vaccinated because not only are they protecting their child, but their also protecting those children that can't be vaccinated for medical reasons," said Taylor.