National Immunization Awareness Month: local exemption rates, facts, and myths

National Immunization Awareness Month: local exemption rates, facts, and myths

(WECT) - August is National Immunization Awareness Month. It’s an entire month dedicated to showcasing the importance of vaccines to people, both young and old.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), vaccines are important because they help control the spread of infectious diseases. Vaccines reduce the number of disease that can cause serious illness, complications, and even death.

Children entering school, public or private, in North Carolina are required to be vaccinated against:

  • Measles
  • Polio
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (whopping cough)
  • Diphtheria
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • Hepatitis B

Dr. Jessica Provo with New Hanover Regional Medical Center agrees that vaccines are the best and safest way to protect everyone from potentially life-threatening diseases.

“Right before going to school, it’s getting the MMR vaccine, which is measles, mumps, and rubella,” says Dr. Provo. “That’s always one that parents are on the fence about because it’s a live intuitive vaccine which can cause fever, discomfort in children after they get the vaccine. That is also one where parents think is linked to autism which has been disproved by multiple studies by the CDC.”

Religious and medical exemptions from immunizations are allowed under state law, but it’s important to be educated as a parent before decided to not vaccinate young children.

“That’s something we have a conversation with parents that it’s important to prevent those diseases from spreading throughout the school and things like that happening which has also been a big issue,” says Dr. Provo.

It’s important to know that vaccines do not cause autism. The CDC released a study explaining that a few years back.

“There’s no proof behind that and usually that link that people see is because autism is caught around the age of 2 and 3 when those vaccines are being administered, there’s no true link, it’s just coincidence," says Dr. Provo.

Between the 2018-2019 school year in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender, an average of 1.5% of kindergartners were exempt from immunizations for either medical or religious reasons. That’s nearly a 100% jump from the 2011-2012 school year.

Here is a breakdown of each school district in 2011-2012:

School District Total kindergarten
Medical exempt Religion exempt
Bladen 420 0.0% 0.0%
Brunswick 1,142 0.0% 0.9%
Columbus 640 0.0% 0.2%
New Hanover 2,223 0.1% 1.2%
Pender 566 0.2% 0.5%


School District Total kindergarten
Medical exempt Religion exempt
Bladen 321 0.0% 0.0%
Brunswick 1,048 0.3% 2.0%
Columbus 633 0.2% 0.3%
New Hanover 1,772 0.1% 3.2%
Pender 616 0.0% 2.6%

To be medically exempt from vaccinations, a licensed North Carolina physician must determine the vaccine may be detrimental to a person’s health.

If the religious beliefs of the parent or guardian of the child oppose the immunizations requires, the child can be exempt from getting the vaccinations.

For more details on exemptions from required immunizations, click here.

Dr. Provo says the most important thing to do is educate yourself by doing research with credible sources and to talk to your doctor.

“It’s making parents and just the general public aware of why they are important," says Dr. Provo. “Why immunizations are out there to prevent those diseases that can affect their children in the long run. It’s not just because we want the population to be immunized from things, but that we’re trying to prevent more serious diseases from occurring.”

Immunizations continue throughout the teen years and into adulthood. Here is an immunization schedule and information on adult immunizations.

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