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Increased Immunization Rates Show That The New Vaccine Law Is Actually Working

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed California legislation today on strict and mandatory vaccination requirements for schoolchildren (Photo by weerayut ranmai via Shutterstock)
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Immunization rates among California's kindergartners are at their highest since at least 1998, reports the L.A. Times.

According to data released by the California Department of Public Health, 95.6% of California's kindergartners entering the 2016-2017 school year have received all required vaccinations. This is an increase from the 92.8% seen during the 2015-2016 school year.

Looking at it from a more localized level, Los Angeles County was met with an even bigger surge, going from 90% to 95%. In Orange County, the figures leapt from 92.5% to 95.5%.

In terms of specific immunizations, the figures rose across the board. The department said that there was a 2% increase in vaccinations for hepatitis B among California kindergartners, as well as a 2.8% increase for measles, mumps, and rubella.

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Many are crediting the upward trend to SB 277, which went into effect as law in 2016. Signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2015, the mandate was regarded as one of the strictest children vaccination laws in the country. It eliminated personal and religious beliefs as reasons to exempt students from vaccination. The law does, however, exempt children who are home-schooled or are enrolled in "an independent study program."

“This success is a first step toward reducing the number of unimmunized people putting our families at risk for preventable diseases, thereby restoring community immunity throughout our state in the coming years,” said Dr. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who authored the bill, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The legislation was in large part spurred by the measles outbreak that was believed to stem from Disney's theme parks between 2014 and 2015. By February 11, 2015, there were a total of 125 measles cases that were reportedly connected to the incident— 110 of the patients were California residents, and over a third of them had reported visiting a Disney theme park sometime between December 17 and 20 in 2014.

In spite of the rising rates of immunization, outbreaks have still cropped up recently in the L.A. area. In late 2016, it was reported that a measles outbreak had infected 18 people in the county—it was suspected that the outbreak centered around L.A.'s Orthodox Jewish community. None of the 18 patients were able to provide proof of immunization to public health officials, according to the L.A. Times.