More parents in Duval and St. Johns Counties are choosing not to get their kids vaccinated against potentially devastating diseases.
An Action News Jax Investigation found all six of the schools with the highest percentage of unvaccinated children are elementary schools.
In Florida, parents can apply for religious or medical exemptions, opting their kids out of life-saving vaccinations for diseases like measles, mumps and rubella.
“I mean, it’s every parent’s choice. So, I’m just worried about my own children,” said St. Augustine mother Laura Hunsworth, who vaccinates her kids.
The percentage of unvaccinated students in Duval and St. Johns Counties has grown over the past three school years.
In St. Johns County School District, 2.48 percent of kids are unvaccinated this school year. During the 2017-2018 school year, it was 2.28 percent. The year before, 2.07 percent of students were unprotected.
Duval County Public Schools campuses have seen a similar trend.
This school year, 1.24 percent of DCPS students are not vaccinated. During the 2017-2018 school year, it was 1.01 percent. The year before, 0.87 percent of students were unvaccinated.
Action News Jax identified the six public schools in St. Johns and Duval Counties with the highest percentage unvaccinated students.
Nearly one in 10 children at R.B. Hunt Elementary School in St. Augustine are unvaccinated.
That school has the highest percentage of unprotected children in either county, at 9.46 percent.
That’s 61 children.
“It’s disturbing to me,” said Lauren Carpenter, whose two sons go to R.B. Hunt Elementary. “I think it’s more important to take care of the community, get vaccinated, and take care of your kids’ health.”
The other two schools in St. Johns County with the highest percentage of unvaccinated students are Ketterlinus Elementary at 4.91 percent and Hartley Elementary at 4.45 percent.
In Duval County, it's Atlantic Beach Elementary at 5.86 percent, J. Allen Axson Elementary with 4.72 percent and Bartram Springs Elementary with 3.69 percent of students unvaccinated.
The World Health Organization says vaccines are safe, rigorously tested and constantly monitored by scientists for any sign they may cause harm.
"There's absolutely no evidence -- let me repeat that -- there's absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism. This has been studied over, and over, and over, and over again." said Wolfson Children’s Hospital Chief of Pediatric and Infectious Disease Dr. Mobeen Rathore.
Dr. Rathore said unvaccinated kids put others whose immune systems are compromised at risk, including the elderly, cancer patients and people with genetic disorders.
Cox Media Group