Some Local Schools Below State Vaccination Rate
CORRECTION: This article incorrectly stated the number of vaccinations exemptions as a whole number, when, instead, they were reported, by the state as percentages. As a result, Pasadena Waldorf School does not have 16 such exemptions, but instead 16% of its kindergarten population has exemptions. The Waverly School, also in Pasadena, does not have 8, but instead has 8% of its kindergarten class with exemptions; Turning Point School in Culver City has 6% (or two exemptions, per school staff) and the Brentwood School, 5%, not five. We regret the error.
Over two-dozen local area schools are below the state’s recommendation for vaccination rates, despite a state inoculation law, now in its second year.
Health officials recommend a school have at least 95% of its students up to date on vaccinations. That’s the percentage of the population experts say is required to reach what is known as “herd immunity” and prevent the spread of transmissible diseases, like measles.
But according to an August analysis of kindergarten students in both public and private schools by the Los Angeles Times using using 2016-2017 school year data supplied by the California Dept. of Public Health, many schools are well below that threshold.
Locally, 28 schools fall into that category. Citizens of the World Hollywood had the poorest kindergarten vaccination rate at 32%.
Other local schools falling close behind were: the Pasadena Waldorf School (45%), Los Feliz STEMM Magnet (65%) and Lycee International de Los Angeles Los Feliz, (72%).
Schools not meeting the 95% threshold, “concerns me, absolutely,” said Cynthia Freeman, who has two children at Franklin Avenue Elementary, which reportedly has an 85% compliance rate. “If you don’t vaccinate you are not just putting your own children at risk but all the children at risk. It’s a communal choice not just a personal choice.”
But another parent, who asked not to be identified, said she had to get a medical exemption for her child due to another illness her child has, for which vaccines could cause complications.
“It’s hard,” she said. “We won’t want [our child] getting measles either. It’s a very difficult decision and one we don’t take lightly.”
Both parents said their children’s respective schools have been vigilant about making sure students are up to date.
According to Freeman, the paperwork for her child was accidentally missing one vaccination notation last year.
“We got a letter saying ‘Your kindergartener is missing one of her vaccinations and she cannot come to school,’” if not rectified within a few days.
The same occurred for the parent who asked not to be identified.
She said her child’s school starting contacting her months before the start of school saying her child could not attend without up-to-date immunizations or a medical exemption from the child’s pediatrician.
“The school was going out of their way,” she said to get the children’s records in compliance.
Other local schools not at the 95% threshold include St. Teresa of Avila, 83%; the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, 88%; Pilgrim School, 89%; Third Street Elementary in Hancock Park, 92% and Ivanhoe Elementary, 94%. A complete list of each school’s vaccination rates is available at spreadsheets.latimes.com/vaccination-rates-1617/.
But according to Los Angeles Unified School District spokesperson Ellen Morgan, these percentages may not be completely up to date.
“The data is always outdated,” she said.
Morgan offered to have the LAUSD’s nursing staff review and update the percentages, if necessary, for this story. But she did not provide the information on deadline.
For schools with low vaccination rates this school year, the consequence is a review by the state in the spring of 2018, according to LAUSD officials. However, when asked about any outcomes for such an audit, LAUSD officials said they did not want to speculate on that at this time.
“In the meantime,” said another LAUSD spokesperson, Shannon Haber, “we are working closely with our school community to educate parents about the importance of having their kindergarteners vaccinated.”
A spokesperson for the California Dept. of Public Health echoed those sentiments.
“[The state health department along with], local health departments, and educational authorities work with schools to improve student immunization coverage and protect public health,” said Jorge de la Cruz, a spokesperson for the California Dept. of Public Health in an email. “Also, the California Department of Education is notified of any schools that do not comply with reporting requirements.”
While some schools are still out of compliance, the new law, known as SB277, has boosted kindergarten vaccination rates to record highs, according to the August 13th Los Angeles Times story. The law was passed in 2015 after a measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland.
The law’s intention was to remove personal belief immunization exemptions. There has been a growing trend for parents to opt their children out of vaccinations citing personal or religious beliefs. Additionally, some parents harbor concerns that vaccinations might lead to autism, a theory that has since been debunked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The law does, however, allow a doctor to write a note to the school stating the child should not receive vaccinations for medical reasons.
According to the Times data, Pasadena Waldorf School has 16 such exemptions, by far more than any other local school not at the 95% herd immunity recommendation. The Waverly School, also in Pasadena, has 8; Turning Point School in Culver City has 6 and the Brentwood School, 5.
Many schools only had one child approved for exemption, such as Franklin Avenue Elementary, Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, Glenfeliz Elementary and Ivanhoe Elementary.