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Lucy Butler,15, getting ready to have her measles jab at All Saints School in Ingleby Barwick, Teesside as a national vaccination catch-up campaign has been launched to curb a rise in measles cases in England. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

A new study has identified many metropolitan and rural areas across the United States that are now in greater danger of preventable disease outbreaks due to low vaccination rates in children.

Eighteen states allow parents to opt out of vaccines and immunizations for “religious or philosophical” reasons (non-medical exemptions, or NMEs), and every state allows exemptions for children who have compromised immune systems. The new study confirms that large segments of parents are exercising their exemptions, resulting in a growing population of citizens unprotected from childhood diseases that were once virtually eradicated.

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Co-sleeping, sleep training, breast versus bottle, free-range versus helicopter parenting – these are all hot-button parenting issues. But no parenting issue invokes more division and derision than vaccination.

The difference, pro-vaccinators argue, between the first examples and vaccination is that the decision not to vaccinate impacts more than just one’s immediate family. Unvaccinated children can present a health risk to those too young to be immunized or who are unable to receive vaccines because of allergies or other health issues.

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