Thousands of Children Starting School Without Getting Vaccines
More than 11,000 kindergarteners in California did not receive at least one vaccination in 2010 because their parents opted out of the immunization, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Parents of school children in California can file personal belief exemptions from inoculations without being required to explain their decision.
Since 2004, the rate of parents exempting their children based on personal beliefs has been steadily increasing, raising concern among state health officials.
TheÂ debate overÂ vaccinating children has grown in California following an increase of pertussis -- or whooping cough -- cases, whichÂ was responsible forÂ 10 infant deaths andÂ more than 9,100 infections last year.
Details of the Trend
About 2.5% of the state's kindergarteners were exempted from vaccines last year. The rate of refused vaccines in 2010 was the highest in the state since 1978.
The rate of exemptions varies across the state.Â The rateÂ is more than twice as high as the rate in certain parts of the state, especially in more affluent areas.
Reasons for Exemptions
Catherine Flores Martin, director at the California Immunization Coalition, said some parents decide to sign personal belief exemptions becauseÂ of information they find on the Internet,Â instead ofÂ consulting with a medical expert.
She said parents can have difficulty sorting through what information they think is credible.
Barbara Lowe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, said some parents also sign personal belief exemptions because they cannot immediately find a physician who will sign an exemption for medical reasons.
Linda Davis-Alldritt, a school nurse consultant at the California Department of Education, said the increaseÂ in kindergarteners entering school without the vaccines poses a health risk, especially to children who are medically exempt from shots because of allergies or auto-immune disorders.
John Talarico -- chief of the immunization branch at the California Department of Public Health -- said unvaccinated children tend to live in clustered areasÂ where families opt out of immunizations.
He said, "When we see these clusters, that represents the possibility of transmission of disease more quickly and in a more sustained fashion" (Kumar/Tayefe Mohajer, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/26).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.