County of Marin - News Releases - Immunization Rates

For Immediate Release
January 23, 2015

Childhood Vaccine Rates Improving in Marin

Cluster of opt-outs still a concern, especially in Southern Marin

San Rafael, CA – Protection against disease outbreaks is improving in Marin County, reflecting a change from trends in the past decade. For the second consecutive year, fewer Marin parents requested personal belief exemptions from required school immunizations, leading to an 18 percent decline in the exemption rate for kindergartners from 2012 to 2014.

A close-up of a nurse's hands preparing a needle for an immunization shot.At the Marin Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Immunization Program, concerns about high rates of vaccine exemptions grew as the opt-out rates more than doubled from 3.7 percent in 2002 to its peak at 7.8 percent in 2012. In 2014, a new law required those wanting vaccine exemptions to have a conversation about immunization with a healthcare practitioner. By the end of that year, the opt-out rate had slipped to 6.5 percent, an 18 percent drop from two years earlier.

The HHS Immunization Program surveyed parents to better understand why some don’t vaccinate, supported local pediatricians in their communication with patients, and provided up-to-date information to the community. An interactive map was created with school-specific vaccination rates to help parents make informed decisions. 

“We found that parents are trying to navigate the best choices for their children and don’t always have access to the facts,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “When parents really understand the risk of disease and the safety of the vaccines that prevent disease, more choose to immunize their children.”

In some Marin schools the opt-out rates are still higher than 50 percent. A recent study published by the journal Pediatrics found that parents refusing vaccines tend to be clustered in the same geographic areas, including Southern Marin. 

“This is a particular concern this year, with 59 cases of measles reported so far statewide” said Danielle Hiser, Public Health Nurse of the Marin County Immunization program. “We’re lucky that we haven’t had any measles cases in Marin yet because the disease spreads quickly in under-vaccinated communities. A recent Disneyland outbreak is an unfortunate reminder of how low vaccination rates are not just a hypothetical threat, but a real one.”


Dr. Matthew Willis
Public Health Officer
Health and Human Services

3240 Kerner Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 473-4163
Email: Dr. Matthew Willis
Marin HHS website