KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More Kansas and Missouri students are opting out of vaccines required for public schools, according to data collected by 41 Action News.
41 Action News requested vaccine exemption data from the major school districts around the metro for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school districts.
The increase in exemptions comes as the conversation about the benefits and risk of vaccines is heating up in Kansas City.
Based on the data 41 Action News received, every school district, except the Olathe School District, saw an increase in the number of student vaccination exemptions. Most students reported religious over medical reasons.
Last week, an anti-vaccine billboard was vandalized near Blue Parkway and Hardesty Ave.
It was paid for by Learn the Risk, an organization based out of California.
"We had supporters in the area who had been emailing me to get a board up," said Brandy Vaughan, the group's founder. "No matter where you stand on the vaccine debate, it's important that parents are given the information on the risks."
The sign said, "Vaccines Can Kill" and featured a picture of Nicholas Catone, who died when he was 20-months-old. His parents blame a vaccine for his death, which he received 17 days earlier.
"While this family needs to grieve and sort out what happened, they, unfortunately, picked an explanation and a campaign that really can be dangerous and is counter-productive to the health of children in our city and around the country," said Dr. Stephen Lauer, a pediatrician at the University of Kansas Hospital.
Based on the data 41 Action News received, every school district saw an increase in the number of student vaccination exemptions. Most students reported religious over medical reasons.
"Once you start to see those rates dip, the prediction is, and it comes true every time, you start to see those diseases come up again," said Lauer.
Last year, Johnson County experienced a measles outbreak that caused more than 15 cases and led to outbreaks in other counties.
"It's the easiest most effective, safest way we have from protecting children and adults from a huge variety of what used to be devastating diseases," said Lauer.