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Arizona schools see more vaccine exemptions in back-to-back years

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

PHOENIX — Vaccine exemption rates across the state of Arizona for children in child care, kindergarten and elementary school have increased for the second year in a row.

Arizona law requires children attending in school or child care to document that they have obtained certain vaccines, but allows exemptions from doctors for medical purposes or from parents for personal reasons, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The increase in exemptions has led to a decrease in the coverage rates for children in all three groups – child care, kindergarten and elementary school.

Exemptions rose 0.4 percent in child care, 0.5 percent in kindergarten and 0.3 percent in elementary school.

Compliance rates set by the state, set standards for the percentage of students who must be fully covered and immunized. While coverage rates have declined, schools must continue to maintain the compliance level set by law.

With the increase in exemptions, exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases has increased and, according to the ADHS data, more than 5,000 kindergartners would be at risk of contracting measles if an outbreak were to occur.