About 2,400 San Diego County kindergartners — in both public and private schools — began the 2016-2017 school year lacking one or more recommended vaccinations against diseases such as measles, polio and whooping cough, according to an inewsource analysis of state data.
That figure represents about 5.3 percent of the county’s kindergarten students.
And while one in 20 kindergartners lacking required vaccinations might seem high, it represents the lowest figure in at least 16 years.
Public health experts say the drop is the result of a new state law limiting the conditions under which a student may enter kindergarten without having received a full slate of vaccinations.
The law, enacted after a measles outbreak at Disneyland in late 2014 sickened more than 100 people, eliminates personal belief exemptions (PBEs) that allowed parents to opt out of vaccinating their children if they hold religious or other nonmedical objections to vaccinations.
About 1.4 percent of county kindergartners had a personal belief exemption in the 2016-2017 school year, down more than three-fifths from the previous year (PBEs have remained valid for this year’s kindergartners who received them before January of last year).
Shane Crotty, a professor at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, said the law known as SB 277 was “definitely” having its intended effect.
“Surely the compulsory nature (of the law) is having a bigger impact than the measles outbreak itself,” Crotty said.
Vaccinations up at many schools
Many of the county’s 509 kindergartens that reported vaccination numbers saw their up-to-date vaccination rates increase.
Exact figures for many schools are unavailable because the state partially masked data for those that reported only a handful of students missing some vaccinations. The data also excludes kindergartens with fewer than 20 students.
Among the kindergartens where exact numbers were released, 141 saw an increase in the proportion of their students that were up to date on their vaccinations. 121 saw a decrease.
Among those schools that saw increases, The Heights Charter school in Alpine saw the greatest percent increase in up-to-date students. Of its 35 kindergartners, 33 were up to date on their vaccinations this school year. Last year, just three of the school’s 24 kindergartners were up to date.
At the other end of the spectrum is Mater Dei Juan Diego Academy. Five percent or fewer of the kindergartners enrolled at the private school in Chula Vista were up to date on their vaccinations (the actual number is masked). The school did not report vaccinations data to the state last school year.
Officials from The Heights Charter and Mater Dei Juan Diego did not return calls seeking comment.
The elimination of the personal…