Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health      

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The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health | March 24, 2014

Kindergartner Immunizations in California: “Personal Belief” Exemptions on the Rise

Nearly 15,000 California kindergartners were exempted from required school vaccinations in 2013 because of their parents’ personal beliefs, according to data from

Although these children comprise less than 3 percent of all kindergartners, the rise of personal belief vaccine exemptions in California worries public health officials.

Nationally, researchers have linked parent refusals of pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine to higher risks of the disease in their children. In California, public health officials recently reported 32 cases of measles so far this year, compared to only three cases at the same time last year.

About 2.8% of California kindergartners had personal belief immunization exemptions in 2013. This is up from 1.4 percent in 2007, as cited in this report. Medical exemptions are rare; only 915 California kindergartners received them in 2013. Statewide, 90.3% of kindergartners received all required vaccinations before entering school.

The percentage of children covered by personal belief exemptions in 2013 varied widely by county and ranged from less than 1% to 22% of kindergartners. School districts vary as well, with some districts reporting up to 64% of kindergartners having personal belief exemptions.

Read more about children’s immunization exemptions in California, including policy implications>>

State law requires children to receive certain immunizations as a public health measure to protect against highly contagious diseases like measles and diphtheria before they can attend public or private schools and child care centers. The law allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children because of a chronic medical condition or the parents’ personal beliefs, but recent changes to the law require more paperwork from parents seeking personal belief exemptions.

See Immunization Exemption Data for California Children

Helpful Links

California Immunization Coalition

Child Trends: Immunization

Childhood Immunization: Medline Plus

Immunization: Updates and Information, American Academy of Pediatrics

Immunizations and Infectious Diseases,

Pediatrics: Infectious Diseases

Vaccines and Immunizations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Kindergartners with Personal Belief Exemptions (2013)

Kindergartners with Immunization Exemptions Mascots is a program of the Lucile Packard Foundation of Children's Health, which uses data to promote the health and well being of children.
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