Survey: San Diego Vaccination Rates Higher than State, Nation

More parents in San Diego County are vaccinating their children compared to the state and the nation.

A survey conducted by the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) revealed that 80.6 percent of San Diego County children between the ages of 19 and 35 months have received the recommended vaccines. The percentage is just above the federal government’s Healthy People 2020 recommended target of 80 percent.

The percentage of fully-immunized San Diego children in this age group is higher than the state (65.3 percent) and the nation (70.7 percent). Immunization percentages for California and the country came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s VaxView.

“We’re ahead of California and the United States, and that is great news for our children,” said Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The higher the vaccination rates, the lower the risks of children getting sick and infecting others.”

Vaccination RatesHHSA interviewers made more than 550,000 random calls and conducted nearly 4,000 surveys over an 11-month period, between July 2016 and May 2017. Interviewers asked questions about vaccination status of people in different age groups, across the life course, to determine how many people are up-to-date on immunizations. The interviews were conducted in multiple languages to reach a more comprehensive sample of the region’s population.

Adolescents Get Some Vaccines, Not All

The percentages of San Diego County adolescents between 13 and 17 years of age who have been vaccinated against chickenpox, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) and meningococcal disease also exceed the Healthy People 2020 targets, as well as the state and national averages.

“The high number of adolescents in San Diego who got the pertussis vaccine is likely the result of a state law that requires that students get the shot before entering 7th grade,” Wooten explained.

Adolescent Vaccination Rates

However, Wooten said, more education is needed on how the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against cancer, since adolescents across the country are below the Healthy People 2020 target of 80 percent.

Only 54 percent of local adolescents were up-to-date with the HPV vaccine, compared to 49 percent in the state and 43 percent in the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV causes most cervical cancers, as well as cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, rectum, anus, and throat.

San Diegans Getting Flu Shot

The survey also collected information on influenza vaccine coverage. The results show people in San Diego, especially those at higher risk of developing complications, are getting vaccinated against influenza.

Eighty-one percent of San Diegans 65 years of age and older got a flu shot during the 2015-16 season, surpassing the federal goal of 70 percent. Data from the 2012-13 and 2015-16 flu seasons showed that 69 percent of local children got their flu shot and almost reached the federal target of 70 percent.

In comparison, the state and the nation both reported a vaccination rate of 70 percent, matching the CDC objective. The survey showed that 67 percent of high-risk people between the ages of 18 and 64—such as those with heart, lung, diabetes and immune system problems—got their flu shot, compared to 42 percent in the state and 46 percent in the U.S.

The annual influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older; however, we need to do a better job of getting the message to adolescents and healthy people between 18 and 64 years of age,”

Wilma Wooten, County public health officer

Wooten explained the data from the survey will be used to plan education and outreach campaigns on the importance of getting all the recommended vaccines.

“Vaccines are the most effective tool we have to keep San Diegans healthy,” Wooten said. “We must do all we can to inform our San Diego communities about how to protect themselves from vaccine preventable diseases.”

The recommended vaccines are available at doctors’ offices, community clinics, or retail pharmacies. Those with no medical insurance can get vaccinated at a County public health center.

For more information about vaccines, visit or contact the San Diego Immunization Program at 866-358-2966.

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