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Arizona health department: Put vaccines on back-to-school checklist

(AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services wants parents to include vaccines on their children’s back-to-school checklist.

“Immunizations are safe and effective, and they’re going to keep our kids healthy and in school,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of ADHS.

Arizona law requires all children attending public schools or child care to have certain vaccines. There are exceptions for medical, personal and religious reasons.

Christ said Arizona’s vaccine coverage rates continue to decrease as more parents choose to exempt their kids from getting vaccinated.

This year, for the third year in a row, the percentage of students exempt from one or more vaccines increased across all age groups. Children in kindergarten and 6th grade saw the largest increases, from 5.4% to 5.9% for kindergartners and from 5.4% to 6.1% for 6th graders.

Christ said she recommends parents get their kids vaccinated in order to protect them from serious diseases.

“These are diseases that cause significant illness, significant issues in children,” she said. “And we can prevent them with vaccines.”

She added it’s especially important to get kids vaccinated now given the nationwide measles outbreak. A case of the measles in Arizona contributed to a record-breaking number of nationwide diagnoses so far in 2019.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 1,172 measles cases in the United States through August. There were 372 last year.

“We know that measles are out there,” Christ said. “We know that infectious diseases are just a plane ride away. And we really need everyone in the community to be vaccinated who can be vaccinated to protect those that can’t.”

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