'Conscientious objectors' forgo vaccines for their kids

Minnesota is one of 22 states that allows parents to object to childhood vaccinations for non-medical reasons. They're called "conscientious objectors."

Fox 9 crunched the numbers in the health department's immunization database and discovered that 55 Minnesota schools fall below the 95 percent herd immunization rate. Every single one of them is a charter or private school. A few examples:

An administrator with Waldorf said she doesn't think the data from the state is very good. She says she believes parents are checking off all the vaccines so they don't have to fill out the form every year, when in practice, they're picking and choosing which vaccines their kids get.

Minnesota Department of Health director of infectious disease Kris Ehresman said with these groups of parents, research shows there's simply more pertussis and more measles.

"We do have concerns about individuals who choose not to vaccinate," she said.

Meanwhile, Christine Abel is a registered nurse with Vaccine Awareness Minnesota. She raised nine children without immunization.

"These vaccine-presentable diseases, for most people, are not a problem. You get, sick you get well. Just like labor, you have pain, you get over it," Abel said.

However, the fact is, there are immune-compromised children who can't get vaccines and herd immunity offers them some protection. A bill introduced on Thursday would require parents to consult a physician before the can be conscientious objectors.

Critics say the anti-vaccine movement cherry picks its research, and give anecdotes and small studies the same weight as empirical longitudinal research studies. The reality is, both sides want what's best for their children, they just can't agree on the science."

Many of these Minnesota charter and private schools have very small class sizes, so 25 percent can mean just four students in the case of Waldorf, but the concept of herd immunity still applies.

School Immunization Data: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/stats/school/

Childhood Immunization rates (by county): https://apps.health.state.mn.us/mndata/immunization

Childhood Immunization Rates: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/stats/childimmstats.html

Adolescent Immunization Rates: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/stats/adolimmstats.html