Personal-belief exemptions remain an issue for Santa Monica schools with the 2015-2016 school year getting started and the enactment of a new state vaccination law coming soon.
The bill, co-authored by Santa Monica High alumnus and former SMMUSD board member Ben Allen and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in June, repeals California’s personal-belief exemption for vaccines.
The law, which takes effect in 2016, came in part as a response to the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and spread throughout Southern California, infecting a Santa Monica High School baseball coach and an infant at the school’s child care facility.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is again ramping up efforts to get students vaccinated.
“We continue to encourage families to have their kids vaccinated, as we aggressively did last spring following the measles outbreak that did come close to home at SMMUSD,” district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.
District officials will be discussing implementation of the new law and will follow directions from the state and county education departments, she said.
Venice Family Clinic and Westside Family Health Center provide free or low-cost vaccinations to children under 18.
“Parents should put vaccinations on their back-to-school checklists,” said Karen Smith, director of the state Department of Public Health. “Vaccinations are the best way to ensure that students are protected and to stop the spread of measles and other serious diseases.”
Personal-belief exemptions varied greatly at local schools during the 2014-2015 school year, according to data recently released by the state public health department.
Data collected in kindergarten and seventh grade offer a glimpse into the levels of personal-belief exemptions, which include families that have decided against vaccinations despite health counseling as well as religious-belief exemptions.
In seventh grade at area public schools last year, the rate of students with personal-belief exemptions was 12 percent at Santa Monica Alternative School House, 5 percent at Lincoln Middle School and 2 percent at Malibu and John Adams middle schools.
Meanwhile, a staggering 57 percent of seventh-grade students at New Roads and 9 percent of seventh-graders at Crossroads had personal-belief exemptions in 2014-2015.
The percentage of students with personal-belief exemptions at the kindergarten level last year was 29 at SMASH; 16 at Juan Cabrillo, Point Dume, Roosevelt and Will Rogers; 13 at Webster and Franklin; 8 at Grant and John Muir; and 5 at McKinley.
The rate topped 30 percent at PS1 Pluralistic School and New Roads.
State public health department data also shows varying degrees of inoculation at local public schools.
At the kindergarten level, less than 90 percent of students were properly vaccinated at nine SMMUSD elementary schools in 2014-2015, including SMASH (67 percent), Webster (72), McKinley (75), Roosevelt (75) and Juan Cabrillo (76). Edison Language Academy reported the highest vaccination rate (99 percent) of SMMUSD sites that serve kindergartners.
Meanwhile, kindergarten vaccination rates differed greatly at Santa Monica private schools in 2014-2015, according to the data. Crossroads (92 percent) and Carlthorp (88) had the highest inoculation rates, while figures slumped dramatically at PS1 Pluralistic School (55), New Roads (63) and Garden of Angels (67).
The state also tracks vaccination rates in seventh grade, and the four main SMMUSD sites with seventh-grade students (John Adams, Lincoln, Malibu and SMASH) all reported rates at 88 percent or higher.
In local private schools, seventh-grade vaccination rates ranged from 100 percent at St. Monica Catholic to 43 percent at New Roads.