Child vaccination rates down across North Carolina

New data shows that in most North Carolina school districts fewer kids are getting vaccinated.

Lisa Jillani is against vaccinations; she’s part of an alarming trend, according to doctors.

“Vaccines carry risks,” she said. “Any doctor will tell you that vaccines are not 100% safe.”

In North Carolina, Mecklenburg County saw the largest increase in non-vaccinated kindergarteners, up almost 2.5% from the previous year.

Wake County also saw a sharp increase in non-vaccinations. Roughly three percent of kindergarteners didn’t get vaccinated two years ago; over five percent didn’t get shots last year. The data points mostly to an increase in religious exemptions.

If you choosing to be exempt from a vaccine, and you’re pocketed in a community where those exemptions are high, how does that related to the risk and health of a community as a whole,” said Doctor Kasey Scannell, a pediatrician with Novant Health. “I think that’s sort of the balance we’re trying to deal with as health professionals,” she said, “of where is the tipping point of wanting to be respectful of people being able to make their own choices, but also having responsibility of protecting the community as a whole.”

Dr. Scannell says it’s important for children to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease.

“We need to have a healthy appreciation of science and what it has taught us and where that has gotten us,” she said, “and the reason that there is no small pox is because there’s a vaccination.”

In Jillani’s case, she says she made the choice to not vaccinate her second child after she claims her first daughter developed autism.

“I don’t vaccinate my children anymore because my older daughter had a severe medical reaction,” she said, “so I began my research into this in 1996 and determined that it’s not a safe procedure and I’m not going to allow my children to be vaccinated.”

Anti-vaxers often site a discredited study by an English physician claiming a link between autism and vaccinations.

“It was a very, very small study,” Dr. Scannell said, “and it was poorly done. Later it was retracted from the journal it was published and he lost his medical license because it was considered to be falsified.”

Doctor Scannell says if parents play the odds it could result in an outbreak like the one at Asheville Waldorf School in November.

More than 100 of the school’s 152 students were unvaccinated, resulting in the largest chickenpox outbreak in North Carolina since the vaccine was introduced.

“If you look at a community as a whole, it is easy for people to look at that and say, ‘well so many of those kids were unvaccinated and that’s why it spread so quickly,’” Dr. Scannell said, “and I think there’s some theory behind that.”

Still Jillani stands by her decision.

“If I think vaccines worked, and my belief was that I’m protected or my children are protected, I would have zero concern about them being around unvaccinated children,” Jilliani said, “and I would think if you are concerned, maybe your belief in vaccination is not quite as solid as it should be.”