TAMPA, Fla. — Eighteen states allow parents to cite philosophical or personal reasons as a means to obtain an exemption from vaccinations.
Florida is not one of them.
The only way to get out of vaccinations is to receive a medical exemption from your doctor or a religious exemption from your local department of health.
Medical exemptions are either temporary or permanent. If it's temporary, an expiration date is required. All medical exemptions must be signed off by a physician.
Religious exemptions are granted through county health departments, and you can complete the process in one in-person visit.
You tell them you're looking for a religious exception for your child and they sign off. No further questions. That means technically somebody could lie about their religion and walk away with an exemption.
10News discovered the number of religious exemptions in Florida has gone up dramatically over the years. Keep in mind, all religious exemptions in Florida as of December 17, 2011 are registered in Florida SHOTS (State Health Online Tracking System). Prior to then, there was no requirement to enter an exemption into Florida SHOTS, but many county health departments entered exemptions voluntarily.
Hillsborough 1,447 382
Pinellas 1,231 473
Polk 714 156
Pasco 714 135
Sarasota 773 215
Manatee 359 113
Hernando 266 54
Citrus 131 37
Hardee 14 0
Highlands 89 32
Click here for an interactive map to investigate the prevalence of religious exemptions where you live. The darker the color of the census tract, the higher the percentage of children with religious exemptions in that area, and therefore, the greater the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.
Communicable disease emergency
If one does get a vaccine exemption and there are cases of a disease in your child's school, the health department has the authority to make your child stay home.
►Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.
Have a news tip? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.