Flue vaccine and needle. Courtesy County News Center
Flue vaccine and needle. Courtesy County News Center

The number of unvaccinated kindergartners in California has dropped two years in a row, San Diego County health officials announced Monday.

More than 13,000 (2.4 percent) kindergartners across the state lacked some or all the recommended vaccines during the 2015-16 school year, about 4,000 fewer than in 2013-14, the highest on record.

In San Diego, more than 1,600 (3.6 percent) kindergartners had a personal belief exemption during the 2015-16 school year, a drop of about 400 students from the 2013-14 record year when 4.5 percent of kindergartners did not have some or all the required vaccines.

“The lower the number of unvaccinated students, the less likely it is for disease outbreaks to occur,” said Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “When children are not vaccinated, not only are they at increased risk for disease, they can also spread illness to others at school and at home.”

The news comes as Senate Bill 277 comes into effect. The law eliminates personal belief exemptions and requires that all students show proof of having received all the required vaccines before they are allowed in school. The new law exempts students who can’t be vaccinated due to medical reasons.

Children who are 4 to 6 years of age are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis—whooping cough), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio.

Preteens and teens need a Tdap booster shot to protect them against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that teens get vaccinated against human papilloma virus and meningococcal disease. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.

Parents can obtain the vaccines through their regular medical provider. People with no medical insurance can get vaccinated at a county public health center for little or no cost. Local retail pharmacies also offer some vaccinations for a fee.

For more information about the required back-to-school vaccines, call the Health and Human Services Agency Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit sdiz.org.