(WALB) - Vaccinations are always a hot topic, especially when patients are battling sinus infections, allergies and strep throat.
But it's an even bigger discussion when it comes to sending children back to school.
That's because there's a handful of shots required before stepping into a classroom.
However, more and more parents are opting out of getting their children vaccinated, at least in Southwest Georgia.
Time to make a decision
Around this time of year is when the health department is flooded with parents and students all trying to prepare for the next school year, checking up on what vaccines are required for young students.
"I mean, they need protection some how and that's our responsibility to keep them vaccinated," said Amelia Elder.
Elder has several children, all of which are vaccinated. She said they start getting these shots at a young age.
"The first six months of their life they get the majority of them and after that's it's like every couple of years," explained Elder.
For public school students in childcare programs or those about to enter Pre-K and Kindergarten, there are a handful of vaccinations that are required by the state.
Hepatitis A and B vaccines, Varicella, or more commonly known as Chickenpox, DTaP and Tdap, which are a combination of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccinations.
Students in Georgia are also required to have the Polio, MMR and PCV vaccine.
Students come back to their physicians just before seventh grade to get booster shots.
Deciding not to vaccinate
"Immunizations in the state of Georgia are mandated," said Beverly Reid with the Dougherty County Health Department. "There are exemptions. A Medical exemption, which has to be notarized and signed by a doctor, as well as a religious exemption, which has to be notarized."
Statewide, 10,368 parents opted their students out of vaccines. That's an increase from the 9,022 who opted out the year before.
The same increase is being seen in Southwest Georgia.
Ashlyn Becton gathered numbers from Colquitt County, Grady County, Lee County, Thomas County, Valdosta, Worth County and Decatur County school systems.
Colquitt County had the highest number of parents that opted their students out of vaccines this school year with 38 exemptions.
Lee County schools said they have had 37 students opt out for the past three years.
"When I was in school, if you didn't have your vaccines or shots up to date they ripped you out of school in the first two weeks," Elder said.
Reid said some parents opt out because they believe in Herd Immunization.
"Put simply, Herd Immunization says that the majority of the community is immunized, say 90 percent," explained Reid. "But that 10 percent says, 'No we don't need to get immunized because the rest of the community is immunized. So, there is no way we can get it.'"
What's the risk of not vaccinating?
Reid said each child is different and there is no way of really knowing if someone could get a virus or disease as compared to another child who may not ever be effected by it, vaccination or not.
"While, you know, we may think we live in a bubble, we don't. People come in and out of our country every day, we may go in and out of the country. So, you come in contact with all sorts of people and you may come in contact with all sorts of diseases.
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