Are the rates of vaccine exemptions increasing at schools in your community? Or have school officials succeeded in lowering the rates of personal belief exemptions? We want to hear about the situation at your local school.
Losing herd immunity
More and more parents are choosing to opt out of vaccinating their children, due to personal beliefs, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Reporters Paloma Esquivel and Sandra Poindexter analyzed immunization data over seven years and found:
- California parents are opting out of vaccinating their kids at twice the rate they did seven years ago. The growth in these "personal belief exemptions," which are legal, was particularly prevalent at private schools, the Times reports.
- Health experts say a school loses "herd immunity" (protection of most members of a community as a result of high vaccination levels) when 8 percent or more of the students are unvaccinated, according to the Times. The paper reports that nearly one in four private kindergartens reported at least 8 percent of their students were exempt from at least one vaccine last fall, due to personal beliefs, the Times reports.
- In Los Angeles County, the increase in personal belief exemptions is most pronounced in wealthy coastal and mountain communities. The more than 150 schools with exemption rates of 8 percent of higher for at least one vaccine were in census tracts with average incomes of $94,500, the Times reports.
You can find out the vaccination rate at your child's school by searching this nifty Times database. You’ll be able to see whether the kindergarten class has herd immunity, the rate of students who are unvaccinated due to personal beliefs, and how that rate has changed over the past seven years.
A viral topic
Vaccination rates have been an ongoing topic this year: When California was in the midst of its nasty measles epidemic, we tracked how many sickened people were unvaccinated. We also asked our community, through the Public Insight Network, to tell us what life was like before the measles vaccine was developed.
And now, as a whooping cough epidemic rages on, we’ve reported on the public health strategy of vaccinating pregnant women against the disease.
And remember, school vaccination rates are not only an issue among kindergartners: State law also requires all students entering 7th grade to have proof of a recent Tdap booster shot, which protects against whooping cough, tetanus and diptheria.
Parents, teachers and school administrators, we want to hear from you: Is your school trying to reduce the rates of unvaccinated children? What strategies have been used? What has worked, and what hasn't? Tell us about it in the comments section below, or e-mail us at Impatient@scpr.org.