WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — A Tampa Bay family is asking other parents to reconsider their anti-vaccination stance because of their son's health and other children like him.
All the toys 12-year-old Eric Piburn plays with are within reach of his oxygen supply that operates for 24 hours a day.
“He had two heart surgeries almost immediately a couple of months apart,” said his father David Piburn.
The 12-year-old has a suppressed immune system, meaning his body can't handle vaccinations and he can't attend a regular school because of the high risk of getting sick.
“He’s at significantly more risk than the average child because he’s not able to fight off infections the way that other people are,” David said.
Piburn’s parents are vaccine education advocates. His father, a registered nurse, hopes Tampa Bay parents will think twice about skipping their child's vaccinations.
Health departments keep track of students who are unvaccinated for a religious exemption. In Hillsborough County, there are 479 unvaccinated students but on the other side of the Howard Frankland bridge in Pinellas County, there are five times the number of unvaccinated students: more than 2,400 students.
"We don’t ask, we are not allowed to ask, which religious tenets or anything. They yet come in and sign that form,” said Pinellas County Health Department spokesperson Maggie Hall.
Pinellas County requires parents to sign a form citing a "religious" exclusion.
In New York, health officials have issued an emergency vaccination order for members of a largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where a measles outbreak is reported.
Florida law does not protect exemptions for "personal or philosophical reasons."
“People that like to say they’re not going to vaccinate their child because of the fear of other illnesses, really need to look at the sources that they are coming in contact with to get the information and find out for sure, is this a valid source,” David Piburn said.
This Wesley Chapel father hopes parents will educate themselves before making a choice his son doesn't have.
“Things that were eradicated or close to eradicated become a problem again and we can end up with masses of people sick,” he said.