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More Parents Opting Out of Vaccinating Their Kids

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Are your kids fully vaccinated? A growing number of American kindergartners are not, according to a recent Associated Press analysis, which looked at state health department records for vaccination exemption rates for kindergarteners in 2006-07 and 2010-11, as well as data states had previously reported to the federal government. Indeed, the number of kids with all recommended vaccines is down and states have noticed a rise in vaccine exemptions for medical, religious or philosophical reasons—with eight states reporting that more than 1 in 20 public school kindergartners aren't fully vaccinated. 

Why are more parents choosing against some or all recommended vaccines for their kids? Some are wary of potential side effects or perceived risks that may come with vaccinating their kids and are concerned that there hasn't been enough research about the new slew of vaccines that have cropped up over the years (including chickenpox). Some don't think vaccines are necessary at all. Some just don't want to fill out the paperwork. Then there are the parents who still cling to the idea that vaccines may cause autism, a notion that has been discredited.

Plus: The End of the Autism/Vaccine Debate? 

Unfortunately, a parent's decision to not vaccinate her child has an effect on the community as a whole. Because no vaccine is completely effective, if an outbreak begins in an unvaccinated group of children, a vaccinated child may still be at some risk of getting sick. Infants too young for vaccines, chemotherapy patients, and anyone with a weak immune system are particularly at risk of catching a disease from an unvaccinated child. Take, for example, recent deadly outbreaks in the U.S. of measles and whooping cough, both of which could have been avoided through vaccination. Scary, too, is that diseases we thought were once kaput, like polio and diphtheria, could make comeback.

Plus: Our Vaccine Health Guide 

"China was polio free for two decades, and just this year, they were infected from Pakistan, and there is a big outbreak of polio China now. The same could happen here," Dr. Lance Rodewald with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the AP.

Plus: Find Out Where Celebs Stand on the Vaccine Issue 

And the TODAY Show's Nancy Snyderman says the parents who choose not to vaccine are selfish. "An un-immunized child is a walking Typhoid Mary who can put any of those immune-compromised people in an early grave," she said. 

What do you think? Are parents who don't vaccinate their kids making the best choices for their families, or are they being irresponsible and putting everyone at risk?

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