Williamson County among worst vaccinated counties in Tennessee

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) - According to data provided by the Tennessee Department of Health, 3 percent of kindergartners in Williamson County during the 2013-2014 school year were not vaccinated.

Parents of the children cited religious reasons for their kids to be exempted from the state-mandated shots. Williamson County ranks 93rd of 95 counties in Tennessee based on its percent of children who are not vaccinated.

"In Williamson County, our vaccine refusal rate is about three times the rest of the state average and about four times what we see in Davidson County," explained Dr. Michelle Fiscus.

Parents opting not to vaccinate their children are concerning to physicians like Dr. Fiscus, given the spread of measles throughout the United States this year.

The disease was considered eradicated in 2000, but due to a trend of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, it's making a comeback.

When asked why the county's vaccination rate is so low compared to other counties Dr. Fiscus, who is the president of the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, "We have a fairly affluent population.  They're very bright. They're very well-educated. They're very internet savvy, but not necessarily trained in any kind of medical field."

She added, "The parents in Williamson County are really trying to do what they think is in the best interest of their children to keep them safe.  Unfortunately, that is based in a lot of fear and a lot of misinformation."

The Williamson County Health Department declined an interview with News 2 but released the following statement:

"The Williamson County Health Department has tremendous relationships with Coordinated School Health programs in Williamson County and Franklin Special School Districts. Together, we're assuring that parents and caregivers are being educated and receiving information provided by the CDC about the importance of childhood immunizations, potential side effects, and risks for not vaccinating."

Dr. Fiscus said educating parents using reputable science-based information is the key to improving the county's vaccination rate.

"People need to understand that vaccines are the most important development in medicine in the last 100 years." she said.

For a list of required immunizations in Tennessee, click here.

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