School entry immunization totals remain high

School entry immunization totals remain high

(Calif.) The percentage of kindergartners entering school last fall that received all the required vaccinations dropped slightly to 95.1 percent—but still stayed above the 94 percent threshold to protect against community outbreaks.

Data provided by the California Department of Health Services showed participation in the program in 2017-18 dipped 0.4 percent from the 95.6 percent vaccination rate last year.

These numbers are still well above the 92.9 percent level of 2015-16 when public health officials were dealing with record outbreaks of measles and pertussis.

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a pediatrician and author of the 2015 legislation that tightened immunization requirements, said California school children as far more protected today.

“With more than 95 percent of kindergarteners fully vaccinated for the second year after implementation of SB 277, I am pleased that SB 277 is restoring community immunity in California’s schools,” Pan said in a statement.

Pan said that vaccination rates above 94 percent is necessary to achieve community immunity to prevent the spread of a measles outbreak.

SB 277 came in the wake of growing anxiety among parents about the efficacy of immunizations in general and unsubstantiated reports linking vaccines to other childhood maladies including autism.

The bill eliminated a parent’s right to exempt their child from required shots on religious or personal beliefs.

Parents can still receive a medical exemption, where a licensed physician provides the school a written statement that immunization isn’t needed.

The latest state data shows that 0.7 percent of kindergarten students statewide last year submitted a permanent medical exemption—which represents a 40 percent increase from 2015-16.

The mandate to have shots remains a hot political issue. Opponents of the bill circulated petitions aimed at putting a repeal on the ballot in 2016. The effort fell short, however, when backers were able to attract just 228,000 signatures, which was more than 100,000 under the benchmark.

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