A nurse vaccinating a child. Courtesy CDC
A nurse vaccinating a child. Courtesy CDC

Changes in state law may have sparked a turnaround in vaccination rates in San Diego County after years of declining due to personal belief exemptions, the county reported Friday.

The percentage of kindergarteners with an exemption for childhood vaccinations dropped from 4.5 percent last school year to 3.5 percent this current year. It was the first decrease in years.

“Vaccines are safe and effective and the best way parents can protect their children against disease,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “The lower number of kindergarteners with a personal belief exemption is a step in the right direction.”

Higher vaccination rates would have protected Californians against the measles outbreak that began at Disneyland last year.

Last year the California Department of Public Health changed the process for parents to get an exemption. The form must now be signed by a health care professional as well as a parent or guardian.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends infants get immunizations at birth, 2, 4, 6, 12-15, and 18 months of age to protect them against many diseases, including measles, mumps and whooping cough. An annual flu shot is also recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

April 18-24 is National Infant Immunization Week, and the County Health and Human Services Agency is urging parents to make sure their children are fully immunized against measles and the 13 other childhood diseases that can be prevented by vaccines.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.