Record number of students vaccinated under stricter state law

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A record number of students in seventh grade and kindergarten were vaccinated during the 2016-17 school year, according to two executive summary reports from the California Department of Public Health.

According to the reports, immunizations increased to 98.4 percent for seventh grade students and increased to 95.6 percent for kindergarten students in 2016-17.

The increase in immunizations could be attributed to the state’s stricter vaccination law that went into effect July 1, 2016.

Senate Bill 277 ended the exemption of vaccinations based on personal beliefs.  Under the law, only students enrolled in independent study programs or homeschooled programs are not required to be vaccinated.  Students can also still receive exemptions due to medical reasons.

In its reports the California Department of Public Health also credited the improvement in immunization numbers to: outreach from public health departments, schools, medical providers and partner organizations; increased public awareness about vaccine-preventable diseases; and audits of eligible schools in 2016 and 2017 for compliance with immunization laws.

Seventh Grade Students

In California, seventh grade students are required to receive booster shots for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whopping cough) as well as shots for measles, mumps and rubella, according to the California Department of Education.

During the 2016-17 school year, immunizations increased by 0.6 percentage points, from 97.8 percent, in 2015-16 and increased by 1.8 percentage points since 2013-14, according to the California Department of Public Health report.

“The 2016-2017 rate of 98.4 percent is the highest reported to CDPH since Tdap became required for 7th graders in the 2011-2012 school year,” the report read.

In Los Angeles County, Tdap vaccine immunizations, or whooping cough immunizations, increased by 0.5 percent with approximately 1,304 more students vaccinated in 2016-17.

Personal exemptions throughout the state decreased from 1.7 percent in 2015-16 to 0 percent in 2016-17, according to the report.

In addition, medical exemption increased from 0.1 percent to 0.4 percent, and overdue immunization remained at 0.4 percent.

“CDPH and local health departments in California continue to closely monitor immunization coverage and to support schools in protecting the health of their students and communities,” the report read.

Kindergarten Students

Before students enter kindergarten they are required to be immunized against 10 diseases including: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, chicken pox and bacterial meningitis.

The 2015-16 rate of 95.6 percent of kindergarten students immunized is also the highest reported for the current grade-level requirements that began in the 2001-2002 school year, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The numbers reflect an increase in immunizations by 2.8 percentage points from last year and by 5.2 percentage points since two years ago.

In addition, conditional entrants declined by 2.5 percentage points over one year and personal belief exemptions decreased from 2.4 percent to 0.6 percent in 2016-17.

In Los Angeles County, 95 percent of kindergarten students had all required immunizations in 2016-17.

The number reflects an increase from 90 percent the year before, equating to 12,516 more students immunized.

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