LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The long-debated issue of vaccinations surfaced once again as a possible case of whooping cough was reported in a Lee County elementary school.
The vaccination is required before you child can go to school, but there are exceptions.
Last school year, 84 Lee County kindergartners had religious vaccination exemptions and 13 had permanent medical exemptions. That's out of more than 6,000.
Diane Holm with the Lee County Health Department says, "it's actually becoming more frequent, in the past three years we've seen some pretty market increases in the number of religious exemptions coming in and we would like to see those numbers go down." She says, "if you have a person medically exempt, they couldn't take the immunization and stay well. But when we have a lot of religious exemptions, what happens is it decreases that 'herd' immunity and the likelihood of children getting the virus or adults getting it from exposure is much greater because fewer people are vaccinated."
Dr. Martin Sherman, a pediatrician with Lee Physicians Group, says he stands firm on the importance of vaccinations. "Our office is a strong supporter of childhood vaccines, in fact we discourage parents who don't want their child immunized from coming to our office because we feel so strongly." He says, "we feel it's the children's best protection for living a long and healthy life."
But chiropractor, Dr. John Edwards at Mama's Chiropractic Clinic has a different view. He considers himself "vaccine choice" and says people need to do more research on immune systems before deciding whether to vaccinate their kids. "The different types of bacteria that babies will have inside their stomach will actually determine which type of immune system their body will prefer," he says. "I recognize everyone comes from different walks of life and everybody has different paths on life so I really support conscious parenting and being aware of what your options are. If the vaccine worked 100% of the time, we wouldn't have these outbreaks," he says.
Health officials say the state's goal is to have 95% of kindergartners vaccinated, and they say Lee County does meet that goal.