Like in many other states, the year 2015 brought a battle about mandating vaccinations for school children to the California state legislature. Until January 1, 2016, Californians could file for a personal or religious belief exemption to excuse them from vaccinating their children prior to entering private or public schools.
That all changed when Governor Brown signed new legislation that repealed the personal and religious belief exemption. Starting with the 2016-2017 school year, all children are required to be fully vaccinated before starting kindergarten. As a result, childhood vaccinations rates are increasing in California.
With the 2017-2018 school year beginning in a few short months, it is good start thinking about what vaccines your child might need before starting school this fall.
Benefits of Vaccination
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated. Here are a few benefits of immunizations:
- Vaccines are exhaustively evaluated and reviewed by scientists, doctors, and other medical professionals who determine them to be a safe and effective way to prevent deadly diseases.
- Vaccines don’t just help people who are living today, they also help protect future generations from preventable diseases. Small pox is the best example of how vaccines work. Children no longer need to be immunized against small pox because the disease no longer exists, thanks to vaccines.
- Vaccines protect those who cannot be immunized due to age or certain medical conditions. For example, infants or children with a weakened immune system from cancer or an autoimmune disease are very susceptible to illness because they are too young to be immunized or can’t be immunized because of the increased risk to their medical condition. A vaccinated population helps protect them.
Like with any medical procedure, vaccines can have negative side effects; however, when it comes to vaccinations, the benefits far outweigh the risks. For this reason, it is important to get your children vaccinated as early as recommended and keep them on the proper schedule.
Each kindergarten and seventh grade student must present official up-to-date documentation of their immunizations. Why those two grades? Based on the CDC’s immunization recommendations, those are the milestones and age groups where new vaccines or booster shots are needed.
Students cannot attend public or private schools in California without proper documentation proving they are currently vaccinated. The CDC’s immunization guide helps parents know when to schedule certain vaccines for children up to age 18.
Before entering kindergarten at a public or private school in the state of California, children need to be vaccinated against:
- Hepatitis B
Please note that certain vaccines need several doses over a certain time period to be effective. If you think you are behind on immunizations for your child, be sure to consult with your pediatrician about getting caught up. Here are some guides from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about getting your child caught up on their immunizations.
Exemptions from Vaccines
Until the January 1, 2016 deadline, parents could file exemptions from immunizing their children if they had a personal or religious belief against vaccination. The new law prohibits these types of exemptions. Proponents of the law view this as a win for public health, while critics of the law see it as an attack on personal and religious freedom.
The only allowable exemption is a note from a licensed medical doctor citing a medical condition. If a child has a medical condition that makes vaccination too risky for their health, they do not need to be fully immunized.
Exemptions filed prior to January 1, 2016 are grandfathered in and will be honored until the next milestone year. For example, if you filed a personal belief exemption in 2012 for your child before entering kindergarten, he or she will be exempt until entering seventh grade in 2019.
California is already seeing improvements. Even before the law changed in 2016, 49 out of 58 California counties saw an increase in childhood vaccination rates and a decrease in personal and religious belief exemptions.
Canopy Health advocates for the health and wellness of the Bay Area. We know how important it is for your healthcare to be direct, patient-centered, convenient, and transparent. Helping your family be happy and healthy is our job. We have physicians and care centers across eight counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma) to keep your family feeling the best it can.
Childhood vaccination rates climb in California. (2016, January 21). NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/21/461395411/childhood-vaccination-rates-climb-in-california