Scores of students from around the Sacramento area were sent home from school this week for not bringing proof of vaccination. A new state law had taken effect on July 1. It requires children entering first and seventh grades to bring their immunization records. The law also applies to students that have transferred into a new district. The new law eliminates religious belief and personal philosophies as valid exemptions.
According to the California Department of Public Health, the state began requiring immunizations for schools in 1962. A vaccine for polio was the first one required. In 1978, laws were passed to require school districts to keep records of students’ vaccinations.
For years, parents were allowed to exempt their children from vaccinations for personal or religious reasons. During 2014 and 2015, there were several outbreaks of measles that infected a total of over 850 people. The largest outbreak was linked to a measles case in Disneyland; 131 people were infected. That outbreak led lawmakers in California to impose the strict new law requiring vaccinations and making it harder to get exemptions. Governor Jerry Brown passed the law last year and made California the third state in the country to eliminate religious and personal belief exemptions.
Despite the new law, 145 out of the 3200 students in the Folsom Cordava Unified School District were sent home for not having proof of vaccination. According to a spokesman, Daniel Thigpen, the students’ parents were expected to take them to clinics and get them vaccinated. By Friday, however, 98 students had still not been vaccinated.
By contrast, the Natomas Unified School District, which has a total of 1462 first- and seventh-graders, had a perfect attendance on their first day of school. According to spokesman Jim Sanders, the district had spent the summer educating parents about the need for vaccinations. They also held vaccination clinics. By the time school started, district officials had identified 157 children who still had not been vaccinated. The school dealt with 103 of these on the spot, either by sending their parents to get the paper work or vaccinating the youngsters at an on-site clinic. Some of the remaining 54 turned out to have transferred to other districts. Officials are still working to get the others properly vaccinated.