The number of unvaccinated kindergartners in California has dropped two years in a row, and health officials hope to see it keep falling this upcoming school year as a result of a new state law that went into effect in July.
Senate Bill 277 eliminated personal belief exemptions and requires that all students show proof of having received all the required vaccines before they are allowed in school. The new law exempts students who can’t be vaccinated due to medical reasons.
More than 13,000 (2.4 percent) kindergartners across the state lacked some or all the recommended vaccines during the 2015-16 school year, about 4,000 fewer than in 2013-14, the highest on record.
In San Diego, more than 1,600 (3.6 percent) kindergartners had a personal belief exemption during the 2015-16 school year, a drop of about 400 students from the 2013-14 record year when 4.5 percent of kindergartners did not have some or all the required vaccines.
“The lower the number of unvaccinated students, the less likely it is for disease outbreaks to occur,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “When children are not vaccinated, not only are they at increased risk for disease, they can also spread illness to others at school and at home.”
As part of National Immunization Awareness Month in August, the County Health and Human Services Agency is reminding parents to check their children’s immunization records and schedule doctor visits soon to avoid the last minute rush for appointments for vaccines.
Children who are 4 to 6 years of age are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis—whooping cough), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio.
Preteens and teens need a Tdap booster shot to protect them against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that teens get vaccinated against human papilloma virus and meningococcal disease. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.
“Vaccines are the most effective tools there are to prevent children from getting sick,” Wooten added.
Parents can obtain the vaccines through their regular medical provider. People with no medical insurance can get vaccinated at a County public health center for little or no cost. Local retail pharmacies also offer some vaccinations for a fee.
For more information about the required back-to-school vaccines, call the Health and Human Services Agency Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit sdiz.org.