More than 800 school students in Cobb are unvaccinated on religious grounds, according to data from the Cobb and Marietta school districts.
This latest data, supplied to the MDJ under the Open Records Act, comes as the Georgia Department of Public Health confirms at least 11 Cobb residents have succumbed to a current outbreak of measles, pushing the state’s total case count to 18 so far this year.
“Five previously unreported cases of measles in one family in Cobb County occurred in early October,” the Georgia DPH said in a news release Monday afternoon. “These five cases are presumably linked to out of state travel where other cases of measles have been reported. These five individuals are now out of the infectious stage.”
The DPH also confirmed two other Cobb cases of measles Monday — both siblings of a previously confirmed case.
“These siblings have not been at school, so there are no additional school exposures,” the DPH said.
Unvaccinated individuals who were exposed by a Mabry Middle School student earlier this month are still being kept at home and away from the public during a 21-day incubation period ending Nov. 22.
“As of now, this outbreak is contained to three families in Cobb County,” the state agency said. “None of the individuals with measles were vaccinated, or their vaccination status is unclear.”
The Cobb County School District, with 112,103 enrolled students, has 692 students with a religious exemption allowing them to attend class unvaccinated.
Added to that is the 179 students with religious exemptions in the Marietta City Schools district, which has 8,898 enrolled students.
These are conservative numbers, because they don’t take into account the number of students with vaccination exemptions on medical grounds.
In Georgia, it is compulsory for children to be vaccinated before they attend school, unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption.
The state is currently experiencing unusually high numbers of confirmed measles cases, including those confirmed in Cobb County within the last two weeks.
The Cobb County School District said it does not track the number of medical exemptions for vaccinations within its 112 schools at any one time, as these exemptions can expire and change, but it’s fair to assume there are some students in the school district with them.
Marietta City Schools said it has no medically exempt students in regards to vaccination at present.
Requirements regarding child immunization in the state are listed on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website, as well as instructions for seeking and receiving an exemption on medical or religious grounds.
The 871 students in Cobb with religious exemption from being immunized represent about 0.7% of the student population in both school districts.
There are 418 unvaccinated students in pre-K and elementary classes, 265 in middle grades, and 188 unvaccinated students in high school in both school districts.
Here are the religious exemption numbers broken down:
Marietta City Schools
♦ 85 pre-K or elementary school students
♦ 45 middle school students
♦ 49 high school students
Cobb County School District
♦ 333 elementary school students
♦ 220 middle school students
♦ 139 high school students
So far this year, there have been 18 confirmed cases of measles in Georgia, whereas the state only had a total of six cases in the 14 years prior, including 2018.
“These additional cases of measles should be highly concerning for anyone who is not vaccinated with MMR,” the Georgia DPH stated, citing the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
Nationally, almost 1,300 cases of measles have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so far this year, the Atlanta-based federal organization states on its website, adding that this number is more than triple the 372 cases nationwide in 2018.