Vaccination rates in California are up again after a decade-long dip, according to an article published by the Sacramento Bee on Dec. 9.
This follows a year-old state law which mandates that personal belief forms must be signed by a doctor for students to be exempted from the vaccinations required to enroll in school, such as those for pertussis and whooping cough.
Although certain counties, such as El Dorado and Placer, have significantly higher numbers of unvaccinated kindergarteners, Sacramento County was noted for having a significant decrease in exemption rates from last year.
At Country Day, almost no students are unvaccinated, according to Christy Vail, lower school principal. “Probably…three,” she said, “in the entire lower school.”
Parents have to talk about the pros and cons of being unvaccinated with a doctor to get their personal belief forms signed, Vail said.
And if there were an outbreak of something those students aren’t vaccinated against, the school would exclude them until the outbreak was over, Vail said.
High exemption rates can be dangerous for more than just those who aren’t immunized. Some people can’t get vaccines because they have immune deficiencies, so unvaccinated peers may endanger them too.
“Children don’t have as developed of an immune system as adults, so by not vaccinating a child you’re putting them at risk of contracting a disease or virus that could have very serious, lifelong effects,” biology teacher Kellie Whited said.
“Even something as simple as the flu vaccine—children and the elderly are far more susceptible to the flu, so the vaccine gives them a chance of not contracting something that could be potentially life-threatening. “It’s easier to prevent than to treat (illnesses).”
And it really is a matter of life and death. According to studies from past years, 98 percent of children who have died from the flu have been unvaccinated.
Nevertheless, only 47 percent of the high-school students got flu vaccinations this year.
“I didn’t get it because my mom heard that the shot was less effective this year,” junior Emma Belliveau said.
Senior Keegan Crain said he was just “a little too lazy.” He’s not worried about getting the flu, though.
“Every time I get sick, I just come back stronger, so I think my immune system is strong enough,” he said.
Sophomore Ryan Canepa, on the other hand, decided to “play it safe” by getting the vaccine. And freshman Amalie Fackenthal plays it even safer. She gets the vaccine every year, “to be careful,” she said. However, she is in the minority.
And even the vaccination is hit-and-miss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year’s vaccine is not as effective against the most common strains this season, due to flu mutations.
Nonetheless, the vaccine can still protect against some predicted strains and lessen the severity of any contracted flu virus, according to the CDC.
Previously published in the print edition on Jan. 13, 2015.