Calif. Vaccination Rates Receive More Scrutiny Amid Outbreaks
The rate of vaccination exemptions for California kindergarten students is under scrutiny following a spate of disease outbreaks and the enactment of a state law increasing restrictions on immunization waivers, EdSource reports.
Details of Outbreaks
This year, the California Department of Public Health has reported 51 cases of measles -- the largest outbreak since 2000. Nationally, 82% of measles cases in 2013 were reported in individuals who were unvaccinated, with 79% of such individuals rejecting vaccines because of philosophical reasons, according to CDC.
In addition, 2,300 cases of whooping cough were reported in California last year. Areas with high instances of personal belief exemptions were 2.5 times more likely to have whooping cough outbreaks, according to EdSource (Adams, EdSource, 4/6).
Vaccination Opt-Out Rates
Meanwhile, a new state law (AB 2109) took effect in January that requires parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated to submit a signed statement saying that they received information about the risks and benefits of immunization (California Healthline, 10/1/12). Parents can receive the information from a physician, naturopath or certified school nurse.
Experts say the law could decrease the high rate of "personal-belief exemption" waivers granted in some rural areas of the state.
For example, Nevada County has the second-highest opt-out rate in the state, with waivers filed for 20% of kindergarten students. According to EdSource, the county's high exemption rate is led by the high percentage of vaccination opt-outs at public charter schools in the area, such as Yuba River Charter School, where 81% of kindergartners received exemptions during the 2013-2014 school year.
The California Department of Public Health found that across the state during the 2013-2014 school year:
- 10.1% of kindergarteners in public charter schools had personal belief exemptions;
- 5.6% of kindergartners at private schools had personal belief exemptions; and
- 2.3% of kindergartners at public schools had personal belief exemptions.
The data also show that the percentage of kindergartners with personal belief exemptions statewide more than doubled, from 1.4% in 2007 to 3.1% in the 2013-2014 school year.
Catherine Flores Martin, director of the California Immunization Coalition, said the law could reduce the number of waivers by providing parents with more information about vaccinations. She said, "Some parents are never going to change their mind, but there is a larger number that want to have their vaccine concerns acknowledged and answered" (EdSource, 4/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.