Fewer kindergartners getting vaccinations, non-medical exemptions on rise

- For pediatricians, including Dr. Natalie  Rigelman-Hedberg at Metropolitan Pediatric Specialists in Burnsville, Minnesota, helping parents understand immunization law is part of the daily routine.
               
“We really depend on something called herd immunity, “ says Dr. Rigelman-Hedberg. “The more people who are immune, the more people who are vaccinated, the less likely all of us are from contracting those illnesses and the closer [we are] to eradicating them.”
               
All Minnesota students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade are required to show they have received certain immunizations or an exemption. Exemptions are allowed either through a statement signed by the child's doctor proving there is a medical reason not to get the shots or a notarized statement from the parents or guardian stating they are conscientious objectors based on beliefs.

The latest statistics from the Minnesota Department of Health show over the past five years vaccines for kindergartners are trending downward, while non-medical exemptions are trending up.

“It's always a parents choice to take all that information and make the best choice, but I'm always going to tell you what I feel is the smart choice,” says Dr. Rigelman-Hedberg.

Overwhelmingly, doctors agree, vaccines help protect children from deadly disease and protect those too young or too vulnerable to get vaccinations. They add that studies linking vaccines to autism have long been debunked with over decades of credible research.

“I still talk about that probably every other day in my practice,” says Dr. Rigelman-Hedberg. “It's scary and I think once you've seen a child struggle with something you know could be vaccine preventable and seen the effects on the family,  it's devastating. You never wish that for anybody.”

The state tracks all immunization numbers for children k-12. You can check the vaccination compliance near you either by county, district or school by visiting the Minnesota Department of Health's website.

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