ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - WFTV has learned that a number of middle school students will start the year without their mandatory immunizations because of their religious beliefs.
Records show that the number of students using religious exemptions to shots has doubled since 2008.
Investigative reporter Christopher Heath uncovered the reasons schools can still use to keep those exempt students out of class.
Hundreds of families will be bringing their kids in to the Department of Health's Orange County location for the basic shots they need to go back to school.
On Tuesday, the Vincent family has three patients, all getting shots.
"It's very important to me," said mother Mary Vincent.
Vincent, like 95 percent of parents in central Florida, makes sure her children are ready for back-to-school.
"After you get it over with it doesn't hurt anymore," said Blondyne Vincent, Mary Vincent's daughter.
The Florida Department of Health has stressed the importance of shots, but according to records obtained by Channel 9, has never received better than 96 percent compliance since 1992.
Parents opt out for a number of reasons, but what they may not know is if their child does not have up-to-date shots and there is an outbreak at the child's school, the department can keep the student out of class for days or even weeks.
"They will get sent home if they are not up to date on vaccines," said Dain Weister of the Orange County Health Department. "Two to three weeks at minimum they would have to be kept out of school."
The Vincent children will be ready for day one of the new school year, even if many of their classmates are not.
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