The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) posted results for the annual immunization assessment of children attending kindergarten in California in the 2016-17 school year on Wednesday. The report found that vaccination rates among kindergartners are at their highest point since 2001.
Compared to 2015-16 results, the percentage of students attending kindergarten in 2016-17 who had received all required vaccines rose from 93 percent to 96 percent.
“I am encouraged to see that California parents are making sure their children get the vaccinations they need,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “Many vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, can easily spread in school settings. Getting all recommended immunizations on time is one of the most important things parents can do to keep our children healthy and in school.”
Some factors contributing to the improvement in kindergarten vaccination rates may include:
- Efforts by CDPH, local health departments, schools and community organizations to support implementation of school immunization requirements.
- Increased public awareness about the importance of immunizations in recent years due to highly visible outbreaks.
- State audits of local schools in 2016 and 2017 to ensure they were complying with immunization laws.
- The impact of Senate Bill 277 (Pan and Allen, 2015) and Assembly Bill 2109 (Pan, 2012), which sought to improve vaccination rates in the state. Students entering school in 2016-17 are the first to be subject to SB 277, which ended personal beliefs exemptions for vaccination.
“I am pleased that this first year of implementation of SB 277 has resulted in the significant rise of the vaccination rate of this year’s Kindergarten class,” said Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and state senator representing the Sacramento region. “This success is a first step toward reducing the number of unimmunized people putting our families at-risk for preventable diseases, thereby restoring community immunity throughout our state in the coming years.”
“It is gratifying to see that in the course of just one school year, more children and the public at large are now more fully protected from preventable diseases,” said Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica. “I congratulate every local school district that has made public health a priority in their community.”
Despite statewide improvements in vaccination rates, schools and communities with low vaccination rates remain at risk for outbreaks. About 18 percent of California schools reported that fewer than 95 percent of their kindergarteners have had at least two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. In addition, 1 percent of schools reported that fewer than half of their students to have had at least two doses of MMR.
Consistent, high immunizations rates are needed to prevent the spread of disease and protect the small number of people who cannot receive a vaccination for medical reasons.