San Diego Student Vaccination Rates Up Significantly

The risk of students getting sick while in school continues to diminish.

That’s because the number of vaccinated kindergarten and 7th grade students keeps going up.

In San Diego County, 1.4 percent of kindergartners had a personal belief exemption (PBE) in 2016-17, compared to 3.6 percent the previous school year. Only 655 kindergartners out of 46,044 students have an exemption.


Furthermore, there were no personal belief exemptions among San Diego County’s 7th graders in 2016-17, compared to 2 percent the previous school year. There are 41,205 7th graders in 369 schools in the region.

“That is great news for San Diego County students,” said Sayone Thihalolipavan, M.D., M.P.H., County deputy public health officer. “The higher the number of vaccinated students, the lower the risk of a disease outbreak in school or in the community.”

Personal belief exemptions practically disappeared last school year when Senate Bill 277 went into effect. The bill 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 and who attend independent study or home-based private schools or receiving Individualized Education Program services.

Kindergarten students who had a personal belief exemption in the first year of transitional kindergarten may continue the exemption into the second year for regular kindergarten.  After this year, there will not be kindergarten students with personal belief exemptions.


The percentage of California kindergartners who received all required vaccines rose to 95.6 percent in 2016-17, up from the 92.8 percent rate in 2015-16, the California Department of Public Health announced this spring.

There was also an increase in the percentage of vaccinated 7th-grade students which rose to 98.4 percent in the 2016-17 school year — an increase of 1.8 percentage points over the last three years.

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.

“Vaccinating their children is the best thing parents can do to keep them from getting sick,” Thihalolipavan 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 free. 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 To find the nearest County public health center or community clinic, call 2-1-1.



José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact