Deciding whether to opt out of vaccinations

Outbreaks of the measles are on the rise not only in Europe but in the US as well.

At the Super Bowl this year, 14 people were diagnosed with the measles after encountering two infected people at Super Bowl Village.

These cases are becoming more common as more and more parents decide not to immunize their children.

Much of the fear surrounding vaccinations is rooted in a 1998 study out of Britain which linked autism to the MMR vaccine. Since then, that study has been proven to be fraudulent, but the fear surrounding the vaccine hasn't gone away.

Nine-year-old Damarius isn't nervous about getting his vaccinations and neither is his mother.

"I don't have a problem with it at all," Tamara Stephens said. "I think it's to help the kids and keep them from getting life-threatening diseases."

Dr. Bryan Burke, a practicing pediatrician for more than 30 years, wishes all parents felt the same way.

"If vaccines are not the right thing to do for your child, then personally, I don't think you should ever trust anything a physician tells you because there's nothing about which we have better data," said Dr. Burke.

However, the research that proves vaccines are safe for kids isn't enough for some parents.

Rashonda James, a mother of five, immunized her oldest three children on schedule, but when her son Darnelle was diagnosed with autism at 19 months, she stopped taking him in for his immunizations. She hasn't gotten immunizations for her 1 and a half year old daughter, Jordyn, either.

"It's difficult, you can't reassure me that it's not the vaccination," said James. "I understand with the research overseas that it was found out to be a hoax, but you can't give me a definite answer. So if I have a choice, I feel like I can research it and this is the choice I'm choosing for my family."

Rashonda is not alone. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the number of parents seeking a religious or philosophical vaccination exemption for their children totaled more than 3500 for the 2011-2012 school year. That number is up more than 1500 students over the past five years.

Those numbers concern doctors. They say unvaccinated kids are unprotected against life-threatening illnesses like whooping cough and the measles.

"There's no disease in this age that is more than 12-18 hours away. A child in Paris can get on a plane and come and visit Little Rock and if they happen to be incubating measles and your child is at the airport for some reason, you're going to be exposed. So why take that chance?" said Dr. Burke.

Arkansas Children's Hospital recommends parents immunize their children on schedule. If you're unsure if your children's immunizations are up to date, be sure to contact their pediatrician.