RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - As students head back to school, there's a long list of vaccinations kids are required to have but 8News Investigator Kerri O'Brien has learned some parents are choosing to opt out.
Richmond mom Kristen Konate is one of them. Her six-year-old son Souleyman has autism. She says he began to regress shortly after he was vaccinated. She believes the vaccinations led to the autism.
"I believe they played a part, I can't say for sure but I think they played a part," said Konate.
Now, she's not taking a chance with her second child.
"With my second child Ireland, who is now 2 years old, I have opted out of vaccines," Konate said.
Parents in Virginia can opt out of vaccinations for their kids for medical or religious reasons. Those forms need to be filled out and notarized.
Opting out has sparked a debate on Facebook. Some parents said that they choose not to vaccinate to build up their child's immune system while others worry about injury from vaccinations.
Others say "Opting out is not an option," they worry about exposing vaccinated kids to un-vaccinated children. Over the past decade there has been a slight increase in the number of Virginia students skipping the shots.
Overall, the number is still low, at less than one percent, so the chances of your child sitting next to a kid in class who hasn't vaccinated is slim.
Still, The Virginia Department of Health finds the slight increase worrisome. Officials say not vaccinating puts kids at risk for serious illness and they note a sudden rise in whooping cough and measles which can be fatal.
Sandra Sommer with the Immunization Division of the Virginia Department of Health says, “The majority of cases that have been reported in the U.S. this year have been linked to people who are un-vaccinated."
The Virginia Department of Health, The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics all insist the theories about a connection between autism have all been debunked. Still Konate and other parents believe there's too many unanswered questions.
"As a parent, you just want to do the best for your children,” says Konate.
The forms for opting out can be found on the Virginia Department of Health's website. If you are citing a medical reason, a doctor needs to sign off. If you don't have the paperwork to skip the shots, your child must be vaccinated to start school, it's required.
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