The vaccination rate for California kindergartners has increased 2.5 percentage points since the previous school year, according to recently released data from the California Department of Public Health. Los Angeles County saw the largest increase in the number of fully vaccinated students – almost 9,000 children – compared to the previous school year. Alameda County saw the largest percentage point increase, with 7.3% increase in vaccinated students. This promising trend is likely a result of the state law, which goes into effect in July and requires all students to be vaccinated before attending school. It’s also possible that California’s measles scare at Disneyland, which spread to 12 California counties, changed some people’s minds about vaccinating their children.
In the past year, fewer parents sought exemption from vaccination for their children to enter school, despite possible personal beliefs. This year 2.38% of children entering kindergarten had a personal belief exemption, a small decrease from 2.54% in the previous school year. By July, this will no longer be an option for parents with entering kindergartners. We’ve written before about potential ethical options to allow some of these parents the choice to not vaccinate while reaching herd immunity.
Although vaccination rates are up, the data shows they still fall short for certain sub-populations. Of the 58 counties in California, 20 of them have rates of fully immunized kindergartners that fall below 90%. Trinity County had the lowest vaccination rates, with just 77% fully vaccinated, a 4.6% point decrease from last year. A closer look at the data shows that higher rates of public school kindergartners are fully vaccinated compared to their private school counterparts. That is concerning because some private schools don’t reach the 92% herd immunity threshold level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. However, this isn’t surprising given anti-vaccinators are mostly white, wealthy, suburbanite parents whose children attend charter or private schools. They have easy access to vaccinations (unlike under-vaccinators), but believe they can support their child’s immunity through nutrition and natural living.
It will be interesting to see how the new law will affect kindergarten enrollment levels, especially in private and charter schools. Stay tuned…