Over 500 public schools in California are being checked by the state to make sure they follow the vaccination rules. They’re doing this because these schools said that not many of their kindergarteners and seventh-graders got their shots last year. The California Department of Public Health is in charge of this checkup. They want to make sure schools only let in students who are properly vaccinated and don’t break the rules. If schools don’t follow the rules, they might lose some of their funding.
A report on EdSource.org says there are 450 schools for little kids and 176 schools for seventh graders where not many students got their shots. Some schools have both grades. Also, 39 schools didn’t tell the state about their vaccination numbers. The list only has schools where at least 10% of kids in kindergarten or seventh grade aren’t fully vaccinated.
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Some students still need to get their shots, and they aren’t considered fully vaccinated until they do. If a student is in special education or has a medical reason, they don’t have to get vaccinated. In California, schools have to tell the government how many students are vaccinated every year. If a student is getting vaccines to catch up and they don’t get their second shot within four months of the first one, they can’t go to school anymore. This is what a state audit guide says.
The audit comes after California eliminated personal belief exemptions for vaccinations in 2016, following a measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland. The law, known as SB 277, requires all children entering kindergarten or seventh grade to be immunized against 10 diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hepatitis B, chickenpox and meningococcal disease.
However, some parents have sought medical exemptions for their children from doctors who are willing to write them without a valid reason. A new law, SB 276, passed in 2019, aims to crack down on fraudulent medical exemptions by requiring the state health department to review them and revoke them if they are found to be invalid.
The state health department said it will conduct the audit in collaboration with local health departments and provide technical assistance and training to schools that need help with their immunization records. The department also said it will monitor the vaccination rates of schools that are not on the audit list but have low immunization coverage.
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Some of the schools on the audit list have very high percentages of unvaccinated students. For example, Markham Elementary in Oakland Unified had 65% of its 66 kindergarten students not fully vaccinated last school year, the highest rate among traditional public schools with over 20 students in California. In 2022-23, over half of Oakland Unified’s 48 elementary schools and eight schools for seventh graders are being checked closely.
John Sasaki, who speaks for the Oakland school district, didn’t give any information about the audit for the last school year when this article was written. Before, he said that the reason some schools had fewer vaccinated students in 2021-22 was because it was hard for families to get doctor appointments during the pandemic, and the school district had a lot of vaccinations to record.
The people in charge of keeping us healthy in our state have shared that they will finish checking everything by June 2024 and share what they find on their website. They also mentioned that they will keep helping schools and parents make sure more people get vaccinated to keep everyone healthy.