Florida has third-lowest vaccination rate, 2020 bill aiming to change that

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Sunshine State has the third-lowest rate of vaccinations in the country, according to a new report from WalletHub.

The only two states with lower vaccination rates in the report were Texas and Mississippi.

8 On Your Side reached out to local school boards to find out what vaccination rates were in the area. Only the Manatee County School Board spokesman and the Pinellas County School Board spokeswoman responded.

According to the Florida Department of Health, a permanent medical exemption documented on the Form DH 680 can be granted if a child cannot be fully immunized due to medical reasons. In this case, the child’s physician must state in writing the reasons for exemption based on valid clinical reasoning or evidence.

Religious exemption from immunization, otherwise known as Form DH 681, is granted if immunizations are in conflict with the religious tenets and practices of the child’s parent or guardian. This exemption is issued by a County Health Department (CHD) and based on established religious beliefs or practices only.

Area school vaccine exemptions

Here’s a look at the number of students in Bay area schools who are not vaccinated. Hover over the bar to see the exact number.

Source: County School Boards

Manatee County has 52,924 students including charters schools, contracted sites and home-schooled students. Of those students, 927 have religious exemptions and 83 students have medical exemptions.

Those numbers are significantly larger in Pinellas County but on par proportionally since the county has approximately double the number of students.

According to spokeswoman Lisa Wolf-Chason, Pinellas County has 231 medical and 2,592 religious exemptions.

Florida Senate Bill 64, filed to the Florida Senate for consideration in 2020, would remove exemptions from school-entry health examinations and immunization requirements for religious reasons. The bill also restricts the ability to obtain a medical exemption.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that vaccines prevented at least 10 million deaths worldwide just between the years of 2010 and 2015.

A similar study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found vaccines prevented 732,000 deaths in the U.S. between 1994 and 2013. The study also found vaccines eliminated $1.38 trillion in total societal costs that those diseases would have caused.

Vaccines are also considered very safe and, according to the WHO, “so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically.”

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