AZDHS: Rise in immunization exemptions puts state at risk for an outbreak

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- The number of people not vaccinating their children in Arizona continues to rise and this has our health officials concerned because it could put the state at risk of a measles outbreak next year.

Health officials we spoke to say they like to keep a baseline of 95% of people vaccinated against measles, but they say that number continues to decline, which has them concerned.

Little Asher made his way into the world a little earlier than anyone would have liked -- delivered at just 29 weeks.

"So he weighed two pounds, six ounces and was about 14 inches long.. I remember seeing his head at the time and it was only slightly larger than a tennis ball, it looked like I had never seen such a thing," said his mother, Breann Vogt.

His tiny body -- not able to be vaccinated, which terrified his mother at the time. But her worry is still not over. Although Asher is doing better now and healthy enough for vaccinations, his immune system is compromised because of his chronic lung disease.

"He's still susceptible to any kind of respiratory infection, any kind of illness.. it just does a number on his lungs and on his organs," said Breann.

Her concern is the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their kids.

"Every year you think it might get better and then it gets worse - so we have stayed home and not do our normal routine things, because we can't trust that we have that herd immunity, we can't trust that people are making the right decisions to vaccinate their kids so that leaves us to stay home to protect our son," she said.

It's a concern the Arizona Department of Health echoes.

"We're seeing an increase over the last three years of the number of parents who are opting to not have their children vaccinated," said AZ Dept. of Health Services Director, Dr. Cara Christ.

Over the past 18 years, that number has risen by 5%. According to health officials, here in Arizona, 6 of 10 kindergarten classrooms are not adequately protected against a measles outbreak.

"Our recommendation in public health is to get vaccinated, vaccines are safe and they are effective," said Christ.

The Department of Health says if you're concerned with your vaccine status, you can contact your health care provider. You can also contact the Arizona Dept. of Health Services to run a search if you're from Arizona.

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