Greenwood School at Forefront of Vaccination Debate

Associated Press analysis determines that parents who send their children to private schools in California are much more likely to opt out of immunizations than their public school counterparts, with downtown Mill Valley Waldorf school among them.

In a study of California schools, the Associated Press is reporting that the percentage of children in private schools who forego some or all vaccinations is more than two times greater than in public schools, and Mill Valley's is right in the thick of it.

(chart below), Greenwood has a 79 percent opt-out rate among its kindergartners, nearly four times higher than any other school in Mill Valley. 

While state law requires kindergartners to be vaccinated for diseases like pertussis (whooping cough) before they can attend school, parents who object to the vaccination often cite a "personal belief exemption" for their refusal to allow their children to be vaccinated.

The Associated Press quotes Greenwood parent Bibi Reber as saying that she had her children vaccinated only for what she sees as the deadliest diseases.

"I don't think dirt or getting sick makes you a weak person; your immune system needs to work with things," Reber told the AP. "We certainly don't want to go back to having polio, but on the other hand, I don't think we need to eradicate all the childhood diseases."

The AP's analysis comes on the heels of the of AB 2109, which requires parents to discuss vaccinations with a pediatrician or a school nurse before they can opt-out. Gov. Jerry Brown has until the end of September to sign or veto it.

The vaccination debate came to a head in 2010, when county health officials and  and lack of education for a . The TDAP vaccine against whooping cough is free of the additive thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury that has been the subject of a long-running public debate about whether it can cause autism. A federal ruling in March 2010 said there was no connection between autism and thimerosal.

“There is no evidence that there are any problems with vaccines,” said Larry Meredith, the director of the county’s Health and Human Services department. Meredith noted that while there may be other reasons for parents to seek exemptions, they can simply do so by going through their pediatrician.

Vaccines have long been a hot button issue in Marin, where the exemption rate is significantly higher than it is statewide. In 2011, the exemption rate in Marin was 6.8 percent, down from 7.1 percent in 2009 and 2010 but up from 4.2 percent in 2005. Marin’s rate was the 13th highest in the state and significantly higher than the California rate of 2.4 percent.

Here are the personal belief exemption rates for all eight schools with kindergarten classes in Mill Valley:

School Personal Belief Exemption Rate 79 percent 4 percent 0 percent 11 percent 10 percent 20 percent 7 percent 7 percent Source: Marin County Dept. of Health

Here's what else is happening on Mill Valley Patch:

For local schools news like this wherever you go, follow us! And don't forget to sign up for our daily e-newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

"Like" us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | Sign up for the daily Mill Valley Patch newsletter | Start a blog

Allison Delman September 11, 2012 at 05:27 PM
While pertussis, measles and chicken pox aren't serious diseases for most children, they can be fatal for people with auto-immune disease, cancer, the elderly, the very young, etc. As a community we must consider the risks to all not just to our own families.
gypsyauthor September 12, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Danny, lack of faith in science is actually active participation in science. One of the wonderful things about science is that you can and should constantly challenge it, because there was a time when cigarettes were recommended by doctors (the ads in antique newspapers really are appaling), and there was a time when people were murdered for believing the earth was round, and there was a time when Ignaz Semmelweis was shunned by every peer surgeon and physician for daring to suggest that we wash our hands between surgeries when there was no visible evidence to support such a suggestion. I am terrified of the day people will no longer be able to ask questions.
gypsyauthor September 12, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Ignaz Semmelweis's observations [that physicians should wash their hands] conflicted w/ established scientific & medical opinions of the time. The theory of diseases was highly influenced by ideas of an imbalance of the "four humours" in the body, a theory known as dyscrasia, for which the main treatment was bloodlettings. Semmelweis's main finding — that all instances of puerperal fever could be traced back to only one single cause: lack of cleanliness — was simply unacceptable. His findings also ran against the conventional wisdom that diseases spread in the form of "bad air", also known as miasmas or vaguely as "unfavourable atmospheric-cosmic-terrestrial influences". Semmelweis's groundbreaking idea was contrary to all established medical understanding. As a result, his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Some doctors, for instance, were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands, feeling that their social status as gentlemen was inconsistent with the idea that their hands could be unclean. Specifically, Semmelweis's claims were thought to lack scientific basis, since he could offer no acceptable explanation for his findings. Such a scientific explanation was made possible only some decades later, when the germ theory of disease was developed by Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, and others. Semmeweis did not back down re: the importance of handwashing, and ruined his own career becuase of it. Brave man.
gypsyauthor September 12, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Allison, thoughtful parents will not participate in the grand experiment of "vaccination for the greater good" because the greater good doesn't make good on its own part of the "societal contract." Thanks to a Feb 2011 Supreme Court ruling, pharmaceutical companies bare NO LEGAL LIABILITY for vaccine-related injuries or death, even in cases where they could've made a safe vaccine but chose not to, or when "hot lots" were allowed to stay on the market. In our war on infectious disease, the vaccine-injured are victims of friendly fire, but no one thanks them for their sacrifice. They are mocked and insulted. Their injuries are denied and downplayed. They never get their day in court, let alone an apology. The vaccine program is a grand, experiment---69 doses of 16 different vaccines recommended by age 18, nearly half of those before the age of 5, and 330 vaccines in the developmental pipeline (Hep E and Hand, Foot & Mouth are on deck as we speak) with no end in sight. Many of these vaccines are new, and therefore no longterm studies on health outcomes have been done. Our children are getting shot up with more vaccines than any other children in all of human history. There is no moral argument that could justify pressuring skeptical parents into participating in these atrocities.
alex September 14, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Of all the preventative treatments ever developed through science- and evidence-based medicine, vaccines have arguably saved more lives, prevented more illness and disability, and in general alleviated more suffering than any single class of treatments or preventative measures throughout history.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »