Families requesting more vaccine exemptions in local schools despite recent measles outbreak

Denise Dador Image
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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Making sure children are up to date on their immunizations is part of many parents' back-to-school checklists.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Making sure children are up to date on their immunizations is part of many parents' back-to-school checklists.

At the same time, there's an increase in families requesting vaccine exemptions. A recent measles outbreak is fueling the debate.

Five-year-old Soren Ward is about to enter kindergarten and is getting his shots at the pediatrician. The recent measles scare concerned his mom, Michelle Ward of Pasadena.

"We do need to be up on vaccines," she said, "I certainly was careful about bringing my kids to public places."

"Typically the first dose is given at one year of age with a booster given at four years of age or older," said Dr. Francisco Rivera with the Huntington Plaza Pediatric Group in Pasadena. "If the kids want to be in schools or in day care, the regulations are that they have to have their immunizations."

One hundred and seventy-six Los Angeles Unified School District schools reported 5% of kindergarteners are not up to date on vaccines. And within LAUSD, 27% of kindergarteners had permanent exemptions.

"I would not expect 27% of kids to be permanently exempted from vaccinations," Rivera said.

Thirty-six LAUSD schools report more than 20% of students are not up to date on vaccinations.

"The more you try to convince someone who is against vaccination using science, more than likely they won't vaccinate," Rivera said.

Under the latest California bill, SB 276, the State Health Department would not only look at schools with low vaccination rates, they'd also look at doctors who've granted five or more exemptions in a year.

"This last year, I think I've written for three," Rivera said, "I try to be very diligent about who I'm exempting."

Ward said hesitant parents would be convinced if more doctors would take the time to explain vaccines.

"The reality is taking care of your children is our primary job and having all of the information in a way where you don't feel like an idiot is important," she said," And that's what I look for in a doctor. "

"Vaccines are safe. They've been long established to be safe. There are some kids who will have some mild side effects," Rivera said. "But compared to the benefits we get from vaccines, the side effects pale in comparison,"