Of the children enrolled in all Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, 15 have received medical exemptions and 127 have received religious exemptions from school-required vaccinations in the 2015-2016 school year.
The number of religious exemptions in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has increased since the 2008-2009 school year, when 75 students received exemptions.
Jeff Nash, spokesperson for CHCCS, said some parents do not vaccinate their children due to religious reasons, which is an approved exception policy, but there are only a few of these exceptions.
“The vaccination rates are high in our school, but there is still room for improvement,” Nash said. “We are continuously educating students regarding safety.”
The Emerson Waldorf School, an independent pre-K to 12th grade school, has a student vaccination rate of approximately 62 percent, which is the lowest rate throughout Orange County public and private schools.
In 2013, 622 cases of the vaccine-preventable disease pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, were reported in North Carolina. 478 cases of the disease were people under the age of 20.
Judy Butler, the public health nursing supervisor for Orange County, said the issue of outbreak is not restricted locally, but is nationwide.
“There was a measles outbreak that affected several states that resulted from someone who was unvaccinated bringing measles from abroad,” Butler said.
Butler said she thinks educating parents to look at the proven data about vaccinations is the key to increasing the rate of child vaccinations.
“There were some studies that linked vaccinations to autism, and they have been disproved,” Butler said. “They have been found to be falsified, but a lot of people listen to those studies. That’s a small part of the population. The vast majority of people do believe in vaccinations.”
Butler said another issue is the importance of considering children with compromised immune systems,like those undergoing chemotherapy, because unvaccinated children may transfer diseases.
“We need to make sure all of us who can be vaccinated are to help those children, in my opinion,” Butler said.
Julie Upchurch, a UNC junior said she saw both sides of the vaccination argument.
“I am sure there are risks and benefits to both,” Upchurch said. “From the impression I have gotten, there has been a problem with children in schools contracting diseases they had not contracted previously because other children weren’t vaccinated.”