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Arizona parents not vaccinating kids despite measles outbreak

PHOENIX — While measles is spreading around the country, Arizona has some of the highest rates of vaccination exemptions in state history.

“Over the last decade, we’ve seen exemption rates skyrocket,” Jessica Rigler, chief of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control at the Arizona Department of Health Services, said.

Schools and childcare centers are required to report child-vaccination coverage. Rigler said a troubling trend shows exemption rates are increasing yearly among kindergarteners.

During the 2010-2011 school year, 3.2 percent of kindergartners were unvaccinated but by the last school year, that number jumped to 4.7 percent.

“Children that are unvaccinated are very likely to get measles if they come into contact with it because measles is so highly contagious,” she said. “We definitely see a sharper spread of measles among those that are not vaccinated.”

Rigler said the department is working to reduce exemption rates by educating parents about the risks associated with opting out of vaccinating.

As of Jan. 31, more than 80 cases of measles have been confirmed nationwide.