Sonora, CA — Trending behind newly reported state averages, vaccination rates for local kindergarteners risk noncompliance and may pose possible health risks.
The state requires proof of immunization before children may enroll in school or enter child care, and under new laws in effect since January 1, exemptions based on personal beliefs are no longer permitted. The law did lift the requirements for some students; namely, those attending home-based private schools; enrolled in non-classroom based independent study; or accessing specified individualized special education programs and related services.
Recently released 2015-16 compliance summaries from schools with kindergarteners indicate just over two percent of students on average, statewide, are currently attending school under personal beliefs exemptions. It is an incremental change from last year, although results vary greatly by county. Notably, Calaveras County schools reported over ten percent of its students are categorized as having personal beliefs exceptions; an uptick of two percent from the previous year. In Tuolumne County, just over eight percent are listed as such, which is up one percent from last year.
Statewide Rates Increasing; Calaveras Improving
In other statewide data, of 551,123 kindergarten children whose schools reported their status, nearly 93 percent have received all required immunizations — that is a 2.5 percent improvement from the previous school year. Equal to that increase was the 2.5 decline in what the state refers to as “conditional entrants,” or students who were admitted to school without being fully-vaccinated, either because they were not currently overdue or had a temporary medical exemption. While schools in 48 of 58 counties reported declines in this category, Calaveras County notably came in with over a nine percent reduction, the largest in the state. Currently less than one percent of students in the county are listed as conditionals.
By contrast, in Tuolumne County, almost 14 percent of the kindergarten pupils are reported as conditional this year; down only a tick from the previous school year.
Health officials report that, despite the average across-the-state improvements in vaccination rates, a number of schools and communities remain at risk of contagion, as over a third of the counties in California have rates of fully immunized kindergarteners that are below 90 percent.
Mother Lode Under 90 Percent
The Mother Lode clearly falls into this category. In Calaveras County, under 89 percent of its 417 public school students across three school districts were reported as fully-vaccinated, even while the data represents an improvement of roughly seven percent over last year.
The highest rates reported came from the Calaveras Unified School District, where Mokelumne Hill and West Point elementary schools each achieved a 100 percent vaccination rate. The San Andreas-based Mountain Oaks Charter School, under the Calaveras County Office of Education reported only 48 percent of its students were fully-vaccinated.
Among other Calaveras County schools reporting less than 90 percent, Albert A Michelson and Hazel Fischer elementaries, both in the Vallecito Union School District, came in at 79 and 86 percent, respectively. In the Mark Twain Union Elementary School District, 85 percent of the students at Mark Twain Elementary in Angels Camp are in compliance. No figures were provided for the private school Christian Heritage Academy in Vallecito.
Tuolumne Trailing Behind
Of Tuolumne County’s 11 public schools in six districts, and with three of its four private schools reporting, the current fully-vaccinated rate among kindergarten pupils stands at about 78 percent, reflecting only an incremental improvement over last year.
Only three of the schools report fully-vaccinated figures of 90 percent or more; Tenaya Elementary, located in the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District, came in at 90 percent. Sonora Elementary achieved 91 percent and Curtis Creek Elementary, 92 percent. The rest of the public kindergarten rates ranged between 56 and 87 percent, with Gold Rush Charter School generating the lowest result.
Of the county’s four listed private schools with kindergartens containing ten students or more, Jamestown’s Sierra Waldorf School, at ten percent, came in the lowest; followed by Tuolumne’s Mother Lode Christian School and Sonora’s Safari Learning Academy, which respectively reported figures of 60 and 80 percent. Garibay Academy in Sonora did not contribute data for the report.