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This is how Florida parents are avoiding vaccinating their kids

There are only two ways to obtain required vaccine exemptions for children in Florida- medical or religious.

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.

Read: Measles outbreak sparks debate over vaccination


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.

                                      2018                        2011

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.

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