The number of parents delaying or refusing vaccines for their toddlers skyrocketed to nearly 40 percent in 2008, new research indicates, amid concerns about a link between vaccines and autism.

Parents declined vaccines or delayed them in 39 percent of cases in 2008, up from 22 percent in 2003, according to findings reported this week at a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies. Researchers assessed records and interviews with parents of nearly 9,000 children for the study.

In the interviews, parents cited concerns about autism as one reason for opting out of the typical childhood vaccination schedule. Despite much hype in the media, numerous scientific studies have found no link between vaccines and the development of autism.

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Another reason for the increase in parents declining immunizations could be that three new vaccinations were added for children between 2003 and 2008, experts say.

The trend is concerning, study authors indicate, because reduced vaccination rates increase susceptibility to disease throughout a community, reports USA Today. To read more click here.