Beginning in the fall of 2016, California will no longer let parents claim a personal exemption to avoid vaccinating their kids for school. The change may not be welcome by aggravated anti-vaxxers, but new statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate it will have a positive affect on the state’s health.
California grants more exemptions from vaccinations and has lower immunization rates than the national median. The result is an increased risk of contagious disease outbreaks like the Disneyland measles episode last December that infected 150 people.
The nationwide median for the two shots—measles/mumps/rubella and diphtheria/tetanus/whooping cough—is 94% among kindergartners. California checks in at 92.6% for the first shot and 92.4% for the second.
Those might seem like high percentages very close to each other, but the vaccination rate at which the public loses “herd immunity” in a given population is somewhere around 95%.
The exemption rate in California is 2.7%, compared to the national median of 1.7%. That is actually an improvement for the state over the 2013-14 rate of 3.4%, inspired in part by the high-profile debate over vaccines nationally. Idaho has the highest rate (6.5%), followed by Vermont (6.1%), Oregon (6.0%), Alaska (5.8%) and Michigan (5.3%).
Some parents oppose vaccinations for religious reasons, others because they distrust government-mandated health solutions. But a lot of them have bought into the argument that a component of the vaccine causes autism. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that there is no connection between the two.
In California, there is a strong anti-vaccine movement among wealthy people. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District had an exemption rate of 14.8% in 2013-14 and Capistrano Unified in Orange County checked in at 9.5%.
Governor Jerry Brown signed one of the nation’s toughest vaccination laws in June. It requires parents who lack a medical excuse to get their kids the proper shots or keep them home from school. Senate Bill 277 put an end to exemptions for personal beliefs.