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
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