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PHOENIX -- More parents are asking for exemptions from school vaccine requirements.

By law, parents can opt out of having their children immunized.

According to data provided by Arizona Department of Health Services, over the past 10 years, the number of parents choosing not to immunize their children has doubled.

About 3.4 percent of parents with a child in kindergarten have asked for personal exemptions. For sixth graders, the average is 4 percent. There are some counties that have exemption rates as high as 11 percent.

"The more people that go unvaccinated, the more likely we will have outbreaks, like measles," said Dr. Karen Lewis, medical director for the Immunization Program Office at the AZDHS.

"Polio could come back. German measles could cause birth defects. All of these diseases are still circulating around in the world and are just a plane ride away from Arizona."

Lewis said parents are fearful and blames misinformation that's been circulating regarding reported links between autism and vaccines.

"Many people still believe [it] even though the scientific evidence shows that's not the case," said Lewis.

Lewis and other experts stress the importance of immunizations.

"Parents don't see the diseases, but they see children with autism," she said. "They say, 'I'll not get them vaccinated and be safer.' The sad thing is, it makes it less safe for the child and makes it less safe for the community."

Sandra Haros , Reporter

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