Dr. Pan Comments on New State Data Showing that Kindergarten Vaccine Rates Continue at Strong Levels
SACRAMENTO – Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and author of legislation to increase vaccination rates, commented on data released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) demonstrating that, in its second year of implementation, Senate Bill 277 continues to keep children and communities safe and healthy from vaccine-preventable disease.
“With more than 95 percent of Kindergarteners fully vaccinated for the second year after implementation of SB 277, I am pleased that SB 277 is restoring community immunity in California’s schools,” said Dr. Richard Pan. “I want to thank public health and school officials who are working hard to educate families about the importance of vaccination to keep students safe from preventable, contagious diseases”
The CDPH Annual Immunization Assessment shows that the proportion of kindergarten students who received all the required vaccines for the 2017-2018 school year is 95.1 percent, a slight 0.4 percent decrease from the prior school year. This follows the dramatic increase from 92.9 percent in the 2015-16 school year to 95.6 percent in the 2016-17 school year after implementation of SB277 in 2016 and a vaccination rate of only 90.7 percent in 2010-11 when Dr. Pan entered the legislature and then authored AB2109. A vaccination rate above 94 percent is necessary to achieve community immunity to prevent the spread of a measles outbreak. The 2017-2018 rate of 95.1 percent is the second highest rate reported for the current set of immunization requirements for kindergarten, which began in the 2001-2002 school year.
The new data also reported that 0.7 percent of kindergarten students entered school in 2017-2018 with a permanent medical exemption (PME), a 40 percent increase from last school year. In private schools, PMEs rose even more dramatically from 1.4 percent to 2.1 percent. These figures indicate the need to address reports of inappropriate or fraudulent PMEs.
Students entering school in 2016-17 were the first to be enrolled under Senate Bill 277, which abolished the personal belief exemption to legally required vaccines for school entry.
Previously, Dr. Pan authored Assembly Bill 2109 in 2012, which required all parents who sought a personal belief exemption from vaccines to be counseled by a licensed health care provider. In the first year that law was implemented, the rate of vaccine waivers for kindergartners entering school declined to 2.5 percent in 2014 from 3.1 percent in 2013; the first reversal of a decades-long increase in use of personal belief exemptions.
Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. However, in the same year, the disgraced author of a fraudulent paper published in The Lancet in 1998, which the medical journal later retracted, appeared on a 60 Minutes broadcast falsely claiming the MMR vaccine caused autism. Stoked by unfounded anxiety about vaccines, personal belief exemptions to legally required vaccines for school entry rose in California until the implementation of AB 2109, and the United States saw a rise in measles and pertussis outbreaks. As parents demanded the restoration of community immunity to vaccine preventable diseases, Dr. Richard Pan and Senator Ben Allen authored SB 277 after a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland infected 136 people, and the death of 10 infants in the 2010 pertussis outbreak in California.
The CDPH data shows that while vaccination rates are sufficient to contain outbreaks in Kindergarten classes since the implementation of SB 277, there are still large numbers of unvaccinated people who were exempted from vaccination when they enrolled in school in previous years. Many recent measles outbreaks in developed countries have spread among young adults who were not vaccinated as school children in the wake of the fraudulent Lancet paper. Despite SB 277’s success, it will still take several years before community immunity to vaccine preventable diseases is fully restored throughout our state.
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