Parents who choose not to vaccinate could hurt Idaho schools

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Doctors warn that the number of kids in Idaho without up-to-date immunizations is rising, and that could mean trouble for the school your child attends.

Pediatrician Steven Smith says he encourages every parent that comes through his doors to keep his or her kids caught up on immunizations. But he can't stop those who choose not to. Doctor Smith says around 10-percent of his patients' parents refuse to have their children vaccinated because they're worried the shots could cause health problems.

But Smith says he doesn't agree.

"To be honest," Smith told KBOI, "A lot of the information that's presented to me of reasons why isn't substantiated. The evidence doesn't support the reasons that people are choosing not to vaccinate."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 23,934 kindergartners in Idaho this school year, 1,540 of them are without at least one required vaccine. That's one of the highest numbers of unvaccinated kids in the country.

Of those kids, 89 listed a medical reason as why they're not up-to-date. 147 others listed religious beliefs as their reason on file. But the largest number by far, 1,304 children, are listed to have a philosophical exemption from immunizations.

Smith says kids fall under the philosophical exemption when their parents don't believe vaccines are safe. But he argues vaccines are necessary to keeping young kids healthy.

"Illnesses like measles, illnesses like chickenpox, they can be devastating," Smith said. "They can be life threatening."