VACCINATION RATES AMONG California kindergartners rose last year, and fewer students skipped shots because of their parents’ personal beliefs about immunizations, according to state officials. The changes, though slight, suggest that a state law barring parents from refusing to have their kids vaccinated appears to have had some impact even before taking effect later this year.
More than half a million children attend public or private kindergarten in California. Information collected during the fall for the 2015-2016 school year shows 92.9 percent of children received all of the required vaccinations. That’s up from 90.4 percent in 2014 and 90.2 percent in 2013, according to a report by the California Department of Public Health.Lisa Aliferis reports at KQED that the public attention to vaccinations may have had an effect.
Because SB277 does not take effect for another five months, its impact on childhood vaccination rates won’t be known until data for the 2016-2017 school year is released next year. Still, the upward trend is promising. Los Angeles county, which has the state’s largest school district and is responsible for educating one-quarter of all California kindergarteners, saw a four-point rise in its vaccination rate, an increase of nearly 9,000 children. The rate among San Francisco kindergartners climbed from 86.4 percent during the last school year to 92.5 percent for the current one.
But James Watt, chief of the division of communicable diseases with the state’s department of public health, says another big factor is “conditional admissions.” These are children who arrive at school with some vaccines, but are not up to date.
This school year, 4.4 percent — about 24,000 — of the state’s 550,000 kindergartners were admitted conditionally.
The problem, Watt explained to me in an interview, is that the rules around conditional entry are actually quite strict. It’s not simply that a child has some vaccines and will get the rest at a later date. In other words, “conditional entry” is not for children whose parents haven’t gotten them to the doctor’s office or clinic for a shot.
“If those children could get a dose ‘today,’ they’re not supposed to be admitted to school,” Watt says.
To say it in reverse — conditional entry is for children who cannot be vaccinated “today.”
Why couldn’t you be vaccinated “today”? Here’s one example: Children are supposed to receive two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. But the second dose can only be given starting one month after the first dose. If school starts less than one month after the child has had the first MMR dose, then the child is eligible for “conditional entry” to school, until the month has passed and the second dose can be given.
Department of public health estimates show that more than 90 percent of those 24,000 children with conditional entry do not meet the requirements of the policy and should not have been admitted to school.