The kindergarten vaccination rate has increased in California, ahead of the July 1, 2016 effective date of Senate Bill 277, which will eliminate all non-medical vaccine exemptions throughout the state, according to recent data published by the State of California.
“With the additional measures required under Assembly Bill 2109 for requesting personal beliefs exemptions during 2014 and 2015, the rate of personal beliefs exemptions decreased,” officials from the Immunization Branch of the California Department of Public Health wrote in the report. “Under Senate Bill 277, chaptered in 2015 and effective in 2016, personal beliefs exemptions will no longer be available for children entering a kindergarten program in California.”
The report details data related to student compliance with California immunization laws, which schools are required to report each year. School staff categorized students based on vaccination status, including fully vaccinated, conditional entrants, permanent medical exemptions, personal beliefs exemptions or overdue. Starting this year, students who are categorized as overdue are subject to exclusion from school for noncompliance.
Results showed that of the 551,123 incoming kindergartners with vaccine data in 2015, 92.9% were fully vaccinated, compared to 90.4% in 2014. Vaccine rates increased by 2.5% in public schools and 1.6% in private schools.
Vaccination rates increased across all required vaccines, with an increase of 1.9% in MMR vaccinations; 1.8% in diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccinations; 1.7% in polio vaccinations; 0.9% in hepatitis B vaccinations and 0.9% in varicella vaccinations.
Personal belief exemptions decreased by 0.16%, from 2.54% in 2014 to 2.38% in 2015. However, an estimated 1,000 kindergartners were categorized as overdue, and therefore may be excluded from school until vaccination requirements are met.
The authors also stated that despite these gains, 31% of California counties reported vaccination rates below the 95% threshold required to prevent measles outbreaks.
“In addition to efforts taken to promote compliance of with immunization laws, additional factors may have contributed to increased vaccination rates among kindergarten students in 2015-16,” health officials wrote. “The measles outbreak spreading from Disneyland in December 2014 to 12 California counties may have raised awareness of the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases and the benefits of immunization.”