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New Arkansas law would help prevent spread of measles

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some states like Arkansas are finding themselves vulnerable to measles because of decade old exemption loopholes that some parents are using to avoid vaccinations.

"We certainly give them plenty of information to try to change their mind if you will and to show them the effectiveness of vaccines and the reasons we would like to have them vaccinated instead of giving an exemption.," Virginia Lancaster, with the Arkansas State Health Department, said.

Lancaster, who's in charge of special projects with immunizations, says they can't stop parents from exercising their right to opt out of vaccinating their children for religious or philosophical reasons. But they try to inform, and there is a process involved. "It has to be notarized so a parent has to take the form to a notary."

According to the Arkansas State Health Department, that is keeping a handle on things.

"Less than two percent of our students in Arkansas are seeking exemptions," Dr. Gary Wheeler, Chief Medical Officer with the Arkansas Health Department, said. He says social media is stirring up the rebellion. "There's no secret there's a community of people who are opposed to vaccinations."

Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Steve Threlkeld agrees that conflicting information seems to be confusing people and leading them to put others in danger. "Some bad science was done that has now completely refuted and shown to be false. Measles is a very real disease that is extremely contagious."

But these experts say there's an uplifting change coming to Arkansas.

Some schools will have to report their immunization rate. Experts say that will put a spotlight on under-immunized schools and hopefully sway parents towards changing their thought process.

"We have to be careful and make sure we have really good reason not to take a vaccine before we eliminate from ourselves the benefits and take on the risks,"

Exemptions can also be requested for medical reasons in Arkansas, but they require verification from a doctor.

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