Cal Coast News

California vaccine rates hit high after mandatory vaccination law

April 13, 2017

In the first year of California’s mandatory vaccination regime, vaccination rates among kindergartners reached their highest level since 2001, according to a report released by the California Department of Public Health.

From the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year, vaccination rates among kindergartners increased from 93 percent to 96 percent. State health officials cite a variety of factors contributing to the increase, including Senate Bill 277, California’s controversial vaccination law.

SB 277 eliminated a provision that allowed parents to cite personal or religious beliefs as valid reasons to avoid vaccinating their schoolchildren. As of last July, all children attending public and private schools in California must be vaccinated, unless they obtain medical exemptions.

The bill sparked outrage among vaccine critics, but an effort to repeal the law failed.

State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the author of SB 277 and a pediatrician by trade, said in a statement released Wednesday that he is pleased with the vaccination results.

“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,” Pan said. “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.”

State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith likewise issued a statement expressing satisfaction with the increase in kindergarten vaccination rates.

“I am encouraged to see that California parents are making sure their children get the vaccinations they need,” Smith said. “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.”

In addition to the mandatory vaccination legislation, state health officials cite their own efforts to promote vaccines, as well as increased public awareness of the importance of vaccination due to highly visible outbreaks, as reasons for the jump in inoculation rates.

Despite high statewide vaccination rates, health officials say schools and communities with low vaccination rates remain at risk for outbreaks.