Vaccination belief exemptions down in Placer County – Auburn Journal

A year after a measles scare gripped California – and spurred action to increase vaccination rates in schools – state and PlacerCounty officials are reporting increases in inoculated kindergartners.

The state is reporting 92.9 percent of kindergarten children whose schools reported their status in an autumn survey had received all immunizations.

That’s an increase from the previous school year of 2.5 percentage points. Public schools reported a vaccination increase of 2.5 percentage points while private schools trailed with an increase of 1.5 percentage points.

PlacerCounty schools’ overall kindergarten-student vaccination rate increased from 86.4 percent to 88.8 percent.

PlacerCounty avoided involvement in a statewide measles outbreak last winter but officials point out that it has seen outbreaks of whooping cough in recent years and the deaths of infants from the illness in 2008 and 2014. The measles outbreak in California started in December 2014 at Disneyland and 136 people were sickened.

“It’s critical that children get vaccinated,” Placer County Public Health Officer Dr. Rob Oldham said Friday. “There are a number of vaccine-preventable illnesses. Some of them have gone away. Some are coming back largely because our vaccination rates have dropped.”

Polio and measles, for instance, are entirely preventable with vaccinations people get on time, Oldham said.

Countywide, kindergarten personal belief exemptions are down from 8 percent to 5.96 percent. The county is describing it as one of the most significant decreases in the state. The statewide percentage is 2.38 percent, down from 2.54 percent a year earlier.

A total of 343 kindergartners had personal belief exemptions in the fall in PlacerCounty. There were eight medical exemptions.

Schools are ramping up to enforce state-mandated requirements that will no longer allow personal or religious beliefs of parents to trump vaccination requirements. Children who have not been vaccinated can attend school if they have a doctor’s medical exemption, however.

Also, some children already holding belief exemptions will be “grandfathered in” and won’t need a shot until they reach seventh grade. There are similar exemptions for about 10,000 seventh-graders. As of Jan. 1, no new exemption applications are being allowed to be submitted.

Ten vaccines are on the California schools’ mandatory list. They include diphtheria, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio, rubella, tetanus and varicella.

Auburn schools had particularly high rates of vaccinated kindergartners in the latest survey. AltaVistaCommunitySchool, Rock Creek Elementary and Skyridge Elementary listed 299 kindergartners and just five had personal exemptions. All were from Auburn Elementary.

“Our top priority is always the health and safety of our students and staff, and we responsibly follow and uphold state and federal law at our schools,” Placer schools Superintendent Gayle Garbolino-Mojica said.

Garbolino-Mojica credited coordinated communications with public health, school districts, parents and staff with reaching “favorable numbers.”