Fewer kindergarteners in Santa Monica were vaccinated this past school year, according to data recently released by the California Department of Public Health.
Before the state repealed its personal belief exemption for vaccines in 2015, the vaccination rates of many Santa Monica kindergartens averaged 75% or lower, far below the 95% threshold that is considered safe. The repeal was spurred by several measles outbreaks in California that year, including one that infected a Santa Monica High School baseball coach and an infant at the school’s childcare facility.
Since the law took effect in 2016, many local schools raised their kindergarten vaccination rates above 95%. But in the 2018-2019 school year, several public and private schools reported vaccination rates in their kindergarten classes lower than rates in the 2017-2018 school year, indicating that the effect of state and local efforts to promote immunization may be weakening.
The data released by the Department of Public Health covers kindergarten classes with 20 or more students.
Three public elementary schools that made progress in the past few years were not able to sustain the increases they reported in 2017-2018.
More than 95% of McKinley kindergarteners were vaccinated that year, up from 75% in 2014-2015. In 2018-2019, however, only 93% were vaccinated.
At John Muir, just 82% of kindergarteners were vaccinated this past year. The school raised its vaccination rate to above 95% in 2017-2019.
Will Rogers also raised its rate to above 95%, but it fell to 94% in 2018-2019.
The vaccination rate at a fourth public school, Roosevelt, rose from 92% to 93% between 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. The school did not report an increase or decrease this past school year.
Two private schools — Garden of Angels and Pluralistic School 1, and one charter school Canyon Charter Elementary School — also did not maintain their vaccination rates from years past.
Garden of Angels kept its vaccination rate at 81% from 2016 to 2018, but it dropped to 57% in the 2018-2019 school year.
At PS1, 91% of kindergarteners were vaccinated in 2017-2018 and only 86% were this past year. The drop followed an 11% increase in the previous year.
Canyon Charter school fell from 92% and 93% in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, respectively, to 75% in 2018-2019.
Six Santa Monica kindergartens reported vaccination rates above 95%, including four Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District elementary schools: Franklin, Edison, Grant and Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH). The only private schools with safe vaccination rates were Crossroads and St. Monica Catholic Elementary School.
At several schools, slightly more students received permanent medical exemptions (PMEs) for vaccinations than the year prior. The percentage of PMEs at PS1 is 6%, followed by 4% at John Muir and 3% at Edison.
In neighboring Malibu, Pacific Palisades and Venice, kindergarten vaccination rates were much lower. Most schools reported rates between 75% and 90%, with a low outlier being Westside Waldorf School at 43%.