As more and more parents opt against vaccinating their children due to health concerns, experts say cases of preventable diseases are rising.
Area health officials report a spike in preventable diseases, such as whooping cough and measles. A study found that half of those between the ages of 2 and 25 don't have all their required shots or haven't received any vaccinations.
Fears that vaccinations cause autism or other problems have some parents opting against vaccinating their children. Other parents say those decisions leave their children at risk, and most experts say the vaccines don't cause autism.
"I respect that everybody has a choice in the matter, but another person's actions can absolutely put my son and others in this community at great risk," said Jessie Bathhurst.
Her 1-year-old daughter, Briley, has updated shots. But her 3-year-old son, Garrett, is battling leukemia. His chemotherapy has mitigated the effects of his earlier shots, and he cannot receive shots now due to his treatments.
Gretchen Austin said there is a history of spinal cord issues in her family, so she conducted research and decided to hold off on vaccines for her children. She said she had to switch pediatricians because of her stance.
"Just in my research, I realized, I think waiting would be best. They don't know for sure if there's a link with vaccines and those diseases, but I wanted to be cautious," Austin said.
Austin did decide recently to have her older children vaccinated. She said she is glad she waited until they were older.
Johnson County has seen a recent spike in preventable diseases. Numbers released by the Health Department show 485 cases of whooping cough, commonly known as pertusses, in 2012, after just 93 cases last year, and zero in 2011.
In addition, there were six cases of measles three years ago, all of which the department said are directly linked to people who failed to get vaccines.
"It all ties together and affects the amount of disease that we have," said Nancy Tausz with the Johnson County Health Department.
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