Recently we’ve been looking at preschools, and I’ve been increasingly disturbed by the lax attitude and bizarre public policy around immunization here in California.
Despite the fact that vaccinations are indisputably important to public health, and that fears that they cause autism have repeatedly been shown to be unfounded, California persists in offering the Personal Beliefs Exemption (PBE). To be clear, this is not an exemption given for medical reasons (that’s the PME).
The PBE is an enabler that allows herd-immunity freeloaders to enroll their children in school despite the risk posed to public health. This includes public schools.
School and county-level data is available to the public, so I pulled down the last ten years of CA Department of Public health immunization data.
Let’s dive right in with California’s county-level vaccination trends over the past 10 years. This chart shows the increasing prevalence of using the Personal Belief Exemption to avoid vaccination.
This chart shows the rates of kindergartners entering school with exemptions rather than shots
Here it is in map form.
All states, with the exeption of Mississippi and West Virginia, offer religious exemptions. 18 states additionally offer “beliefs” exemptions, with varying degrees of ease to obtain one. States with the “easy” freeloader pass have non-medical exemption rates more than twice as high as those in states with more arduous requirements – arduous, as in having to consult with a doctor before the PBE is granted.
California has been an “easy” PBE state for decades – the antivaxxer simply signed an affidavit stating that vaccines are counter to his or her “beliefs.” The fact that this process elevates beliefs above a) the facts, and b) the well-being of the community, is what makes the PBE so absurd.
Statewide, we’re seeing vaccination rates hovering at 92.3% for MMR and 92.2% for Pertussis. That isn’t something to be proud of. Bizarrely, the CA Department of Public Health publishes an annual fact sheet proudly proclaiming CA’s >= 92% status without mentioning that immunization rates have been declining for the past 10 years, while PBE instances have risen.
California is one of 21 states with personal exemption rates exceeding 2%. The nonmedical exemption rate was 3.1% among kindergartners for the 2013-2014 school year – 17,253 little kids whose parents chose to enroll them in school with exemptions. The number of who weren’t up-to-date overall was 51,791. There are around 533,000 kids in CA kindergartens.
Across all US states, California is below average on coverage for most vaccines – including DTaP, Polio, and MMR, according to the CDC’s Estimated Vaccination Coverage report.
Recognizing that statewide vaccination rates are approaching dangerously low levels – the herd immunity threshold
Continue reading “How California’s Terrible Vaccination Policy Puts Kids At Risk”