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Anti-Vaxxers Exploiting Widespread Religious Exemptions, Research Suggests

According to new research, there is a new excuse that anit-vaxx parents are using to have the ability for their children to skip getting vaccinated: citing religious reasons. However, there isn't any religion in the world that is against vaccinations to begin with. More and more parents though are citing religious reasons, and it's getting to be a growing concern here in the United States.

While vaccinations have proven to be safe and effective, there are still parents who believe otherwise. While many schools are requiring children to be vaccinated before they can be admitted to the school, there are 15 states that do allow parents to opt out for religious reasons.

Yesterday in the journal Pediatrics, a study was published that compared data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that religious exemptions have  increased since 2011 and significantly higher in 2017 than six years prior.

Dr. Joshua Williams, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado outlined that parents are much more likely to claim religious exemptions for vaccines in states that didn't permit personal belief exemptions, calling this a "replacement effect."

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"When you give parents two options in a state, personal belief and religious exemption, a very small percent of parents are actually opting for religious exemptions if given an alternative," he said.

He also suggested that that policymakers could create "stronger exemption policies that preserve transparency" and pointed out that most religious vaccine exemptions were formalized more than half a century ago. All major religions, he noted, actually support vaccines.

Why state is having the biggest struggle with this? The study outlines Vermont to have the most parents avoiding vaccinations. In fact, the amount of people opting for the "religious views" out for not getting their children vaccinated here has surged 640 percent from 2016.

PREVIOUSLY: Police Investigating After Anti-Vaxx Mom Admits To Spreading Chicken Pox Through Contaminated Lollipops

In order to qualify for a religious exception for vaccinations, there is a process that parents must go through. In order to qualify for a religious exemption in Vermont, parents are required to sign a short form confirming that they've read a two-page vaccine fact sheet and "attest to holding religious beliefs opposed to immunizations."

The big shift happened in Vermont whenever they changed their vaccination laws. Whenever the law allowed for parents to have personal beliefs as to not vaccinate, 1 in every 200 students entered kindergarten each year with a religious vaccine exemption. That number increased to almost 1 in 25 after Vermont changed its law, the researchers found.

Rupali Limaye, associate director for behavioral research at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety, said "the results of this study do suggest a replacement effect," and added that "parents are choosing to use religious exemptions as a mechanism to avoid complying with vaccination laws."

READ NEXT: Unvaccinated Children Are Now Barred From Going To School In New York

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