The Tennessee Department of Health is concerned about the spike in the number of parents requesting religious exemptions so their kids don’t have to be vaccinated.

The state is seeing an increase in cases of measles.

The measles virus is highly contagious. Even a small increase in the number of un-vaccinated children is concerning to health officials in Tennessee.

To keep measles in check, they want to see a vaccination rate of at least 93 percent.

Tennessee’s vaccination rates are holding steady, according to Michelle Fiscus, the head of Tennessee’s immunization program.

“Ninety-five percent of children in school are fully vaccinated,” said Fiscus.

But there is one area that is troublesome for the health department.

"We are seeing large numbers of children who are not vaccinated, claiming religious exemption, and that is concerning," said Fiscus.

Fiscus leads the Tennessee health departments immunization program. Tennessee law doesn't require proof for a religious exemption.

"It's the law, and that's the law that we have here in Tennessee to work with," said Fiscus.

Williamson County has seen a jump in religious exemptions. Fiscus questions why the number of religious exemptions is increasing.

"There are not large recognized religions in the U.S, that object to vaccines," said Fiscus.

Fiscus said not vaccinating your child puts them at risk.

"If I come into your airspace as an unvaccinated person who is susceptible, I have a 90 out of 100 chance of contracting measles from you," said Fiscus.

Lori Glover, who lives in Smith County, is a registered nurse. She is not anti-vaccine, but she is against any mandate to vaccinate children. She believes mandates are just as dangerous.

"We can't mandate that every child should be vaccinated, not every child is the same. We should all be able to make an educated decision, and mandates are not the way to do it," said Glover.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Alan Frio is the anchor of News4's evening newscasts on Saturdays and Sundays.

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