For Immediate ReleaseJune 05, 2019
More than 94% of kindergarteners vaccinated, slight increase from previous year
San Rafael, CA – For decades, Marin County has been known for low childhood vaccination rates, raising concerns about the risk of disease outbreaks. Public health officials are breathing more easily now, as kindergarten immunization rates continue to improve and now nearly match the statewide average.
Officials with the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) believe the rate increase is the result of education, policy, and the change in social norms around immunization. Marin’s rates have been steadily increasing, while the legislation has become stricter. In 2016, California’s immunization laws became much stricter with the 2015 passage of Senate Bill (SB) 277, which went into effect January 1, 2016. Parents were no longer allowed submit a new personal belief exemption (PBE) to required immunizations for school and childcare.
“We’re much better off than we were a few years ago,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s Public Health Officer. “More people are understanding that the threat of communicable disease is real and that vaccinations protect our whole community, not just one child. But it’s not just about laws or vaccines, it’s about partnership. Schools, parents, legislators, and medical providers all play a role in promoting health in our community.”
Willis said health officials remain concerned about small pockets of Marin with low vaccination rates. Among the 5.7% that remain unprotected, many are clustered in the same schools. On a related note, the number of children with medical exemptions to required vaccinations grew from eight entering kindergarteners in 2015 (.2%) to 82 (2.6%) in 2018.
There is a new bill moving through legislation, SB 276, that would require the use of a standardized medical exemption form, require a state health department or other authority to review and approve medical exemptions, and require the state monitor the doctors who give children exemptions.
“We are thrilled that Marin County’s schools have a critical mass of vaccinated kids to protect from measles and other childhood diseases,” said Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke. “We will continue to educate parents and help enforce California’s immunization policy so our students will have all the vaccines they need to protect themselves and the whole community.”
Across the United States, there has been a resurgence of measles, and Marin health officials urge everyone to make sure they are immune or are vaccinated for this highly contagious but easily preventable disease. There have been no confirmed cases in Marin, but some international travelers have acquired measles abroad and traveled through Marin while they were infectious. There have been 47 cases of measles in California in 2019, 10 in the Bay Area.
To view an interactive map of school and child care immunization levels in Marin and throughout California, or for information on immunization law and requirements, please visit ShotsForSchool.org.
Dr. Matthew WillisPublic Health OfficerHealth and Human Services
3240 Kerner Blvd.San Rafael, CA 94901(415) 473-4163Email: Dr. Matthew WillisMarin HHS website