Tag: Waldorf schools

Update on Vaccine Exemption Rates in California

Vaccination rates in California are dropping.

Wait, what?

Didn’t they recently pass a vaccine law that removed non-medical exemptions? How could vaccination rates be dropping?

Update on Vaccine Exemption Rates in California

While SB 277 did indeed remove all non-medical exemptions to getting vaccinated, some folks found a way around it. Since 2015, when it passed, some doctors are giving kids fake or unnecessary medical exemptions. These extra medical exemptions are likely making up for their previous personal belief vaccine exemptions.

The result?

It isn’t fewer exemptions since 2015.

Explain to me how it is ethical to misrepresent the rates of medical exemptions during a measles outbreak?
Explain to me how it is ethical to misrepresent the rates of medical exemptions during a measles outbreak?

While personal belief exemptions are certainly down, medical exemptions keep going up.

In addition to the 0.9% of medical exemptions, another 1.5% of kids, also up as a percentage, are unvaccinated “for other reasons specified under SB 277.”

There are also about 1.7% of kids in kindergarten who enroll as conditional entrants.

Why is that important? Among those conditional entrants are kids with temporary medical exemptions.

And how many kids aren’t vaccinated simply because they are “receiving IEP services?”

So it is not only wrong, it is unethical to try and say that only 0.9% of kids have vaccine exemptions in California this year.

Update on Vaccine Exemption Rates in California’s Clusters

Still, the big story continues to be what’s going on in the clusters of intentionally unvaccinated kids in California and other parts of the United States.

Are they getting vaccinated and protected under SB 277?

Wait, I thought Dr. Bob said that the vaccine exemption rate was just 0.9%. What happened at this Waldorf school? 30% of the kids have medical exemptions!
Wait, I thought Dr. Bob said that the vaccine exemption rate was just 0.9%. What happened at this Waldorf school? 30% of the kids have medical exemptions!

Some actually are!

The MMR rate at the Waldorf school in San Diego was just 44% back in 2014, as a whopping 56% of kids had a personal belief exemption. As sad as it sounds, even though it is still below herd immunity levels of protection, their current MMR vaccination rate of 68% is a big improvement!

Unfortunately, there are many schools with even lower immunization rates. And of course, that means even more students with “medical exemptions” at those schools.

SchoolPMEs
Marin Waldorf School31%
Yuba River Charter64%
Westside Waldorf School37%
Sebastopol Independent Charter45%
Muse Charter50%
Live Oak Charter41%
Nevada City School of Arts31%
Sunridge Charter47%
Santa Cruz Waldorf School34%
Cedar Springs Waldorf School30%
Journey33%
Waldorf School of Orange County33%
Coastal Grove Charter36%
Mariposa School of Global Ed31%
Waldorf School of the Peninsula36%
Maple Village Waldorf School30%

In addition to these permanent medical exemptions (PMEs), some schools also have high rates of temporary medical exemptions.

Medical Exemptions for Vaccines in California are Unusually High

What’s the usual rate of medical exemptions?

As there are few reasons to skip or delay a child’s vaccines, it is lower than those rates.

A lot lower.

In one recent report, Vaccination Coverage for Selected Vaccines, Exemption Rates, and Provisional Enrollment Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2016–17 School Year, the median rate of medical exemptions in the U.S. was just 0.2%, with a range of <0.1 to 1.5%.

Also unusual is that in some cases, many of those exemptions are written by just a few doctors. In fact, families often go to these doctors just to get their kids their medical exemptions!

“…the removal of nonmedical exemptions in California was initially effective in increasing vaccination rates, but the substitution between exemption types may render the repeal partially ineffective in improving immunization coverage and preventing VPDs over time.”

Richwine et al on Do Stricter Immunization Laws Improve Coverage? Evidence from the Repeal of Non-medical Exemptions for School Mandated Vaccines

How do we fix this and get more kids vaccinated and protected?

“Beyond fostering compliance, tightening the requirements around medical waivers will also aid in promoting public policies that protect public health.”

Richwine et al on Do Stricter Immunization Laws Improve Coverage? Evidence from the Repeal of Non-medical Exemptions for School Mandated Vaccines

In addition to closing the loopholes that allow some doctors to abuse medical exemptions, it will be important to help parents be more skeptical and see through the anti-vaccine propaganda that other doctors use to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

More on Vaccine Exemption Rates in California

Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California

In general, higher immunization rates should translate into lower rates of disease.

And it is true that in most states, including California, overall immunization rates are up.

So what’s happening?

Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California

Everyone knows what’s happening!

Clusters of unvaccinated kids and adults.

Pockets of susceptibles.

Abuse and overuse of vaccine exemptions.

And folks who continue to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

There are measles outbreaks in this part of northern California...
There are measles outbreaks in this part of northern California…

What’s the truth about California’s immunization rates and the reason they are still having outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases?

“Oh, but wait! What do you mean we have higher vaccination coverage NOW than we did back then? How can that be? I thought rates have been declining steadily for two decades putting us in a terrible position of falling wayyyy below herd immunity levels!?

I thought the reason we are now “in danger of disease outbreaks” is because of the increasing number of children being exempted from vaccines? Hold on, wait. You’re telling me there are LESS kids exempted now than there were in the year 2000 when we were free of outbreaks because of “high vaccination rates”? That can’t be right…can it?”

Melissa Floyd

You aren’t going to get it from anti-vaccine folks

73% is actually pretty good for a Waldorf school!
73% is actually pretty good for a Waldorf school!

But it’s not surprising that you get misinformation about herd immunity from folks who think vaccines don’t actually create herd immunity.

And it shouldn’t be surprising that you can’t hide in the herd when your herd is a cluster of unvaccinated kids at a Waldorf school.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary. Vaccinate your kids and help stop the outbreaks.

More on Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

One extra consequence of the rise in cases of vaccine-preventable diseases we have been seeing lately, in addition to the fact that more kids are getting sick, is that we are seeing more kids being quarantined and kept out of school.

“The parents of 42 children affected by the ban at the school, the Green Meadow Waldorf School, sued the Rockland County health department, asking a federal judge to issue an injunction to allow the children to return.”

Parents Wanted Their Unvaccinated Children in School, but a Judge Said No.

And in a few cases, we are seeing lawsuits trying to get some of these kids, mostly intentionally unvaccinated kids, back into school.

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

While most outbreaks are related to measles, in Kentucky, a large outbreak of chickenpox at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton has led to the quarantine of a number of unvaccinated students.

A chickenpox quarantine sign

One student, a senior and the starting center on the school basketball team, is suing to get him back in school.

“The Kunkels filed their lawsuit Thursday in the Boone County Circuit Court alleging that the Northern Kentucky Health Department had violated Jerome’s First Amendment rights. Accepting the chickenpox vaccine would be “immoral, illegal and sinful,” they said, according to their Catholic beliefs. The lawsuit also alleges that the health department violated due process when officials enacted the extracurricular and school attendance bans without declaring an official emergency, which would have triggered the involvement of the state legislature.”

God, country and chickenpox: How an outbreak entangled one school in a vaccine showdown

So they are actually suing the health department, not his school, to get him back into school…

Wait a minute though?

Is the Catholic Church against vaccines?

“Since there is no Catholic teaching that the use of these vaccines is sinful, schools cannot allow Catholic parents to claim a religious exemption from the requirement of immunization.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center on Vaccines and Exemptions Granted by Schools

Are they against the chickenpox vaccine?

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center

No, they aren’t, which is why most Catholics vaccinate and protect their kids.

“In the event that the county health department or state health department declares an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease for which proof of immunity for a child cannot be provided, he or she may not be allowed to attend childcare or school for up to three (3) weeks, or until the risk period ends.”

Kentucky Parent or Guardian Declination on Religious Grounds to Required Immunizaitons

A judge will have to decide the merits of the case, but from a moral standpoint, it seems like they are on shaky ground.

More on Quarantines for Intentionally Unvaccinated Kids

Why Are We Worried About 60,000 Unvaccinated Kids?

In the recent New York Times OpEd, How to Inoculate Against Anti-Vaxxers, the editorial board mentioned the 60,000 children in Texas who “remain wholly unvaccinated thanks in part to an aggressive anti-vaccine lobby.”

“But there’s like 74 million children, so I think that’s a pretty small number. I don’t know why you guys are freaking out about 60,000 really healthy babies running around. Do you know?

Hillary Simpson

Hillary Simpson obviously doesn’t understand how herd immunity works.

Do you?

Why Are We Worried About 60,000 Unvaccinated Kids?

First things first, though.

Just how many unvaccinated kids are there in Texas? How about the United States?

It is actually hard to know exactly.

It's easy to forget, with so much talk about anti-vaxxers these days, but the great majority of parents vaccinate and protect their kids!
It’s easy to forget, with so much talk about anti-vaxxers these days, but the great majority of parents vaccinate and protect their kids!

In Texas, for instance, while only a small percentage of kids get non-medical vaccine exemptions, with about 7 million children in the state (yes, there are 74 million children in the United States, but that’s not how you measure herd immunity), that adds up to a lot of unvaccinated kids.

In addition to about 60,000 unvaccinated kids in school, there are homeschooled children who aren’t vaccinated.

“We’re probably looking at more than 100,000 kids in the state of Texas who are not getting their vaccines.”

Dr. Peter J. Hotez: “A Scary Anti-Science Movement Has Become Very Strong in Texas”

But still, should we be worried about 100,000 unvaccinated kids, when there are 7 million kids in Texas?

Don’t those immunization levels still keep us above herd immunity levels of protection?

Well, they likely would, and this would indeed be less concerning if the unvaccinated children were spread out randomly throughout the entire state. Of course, that’s not what happens and we instead get clusters of unvaccinated children (and adults) in very specific schools, neighborhoods, and even churches.

There are higher numbers of unvaccinated kids in very specific parts of the states, leading to pockets where it is more likely that an outbreak could happen.
There are higher numbers of unvaccinated kids in very specific parts of the states, leading to pockets where it is more likely that an outbreak could happen.

So while it can seem like we have herd immunity levels of protection at the state or city level because of high average vaccination levels, these pockets of susceptibles who are unvaccinated and live in the same neighborhood or go to the same school (where is the Waldorf school in Texas?) can mean that we don’t have herd immunity in those places, leading to outbreaks.

And that’s why we get concerned about 60 to 100,000 unvaccinated children who:

Still, remember that the great majority of parents understand the benefits of vaccines, are not scared by anti-vaccine propaganda, and vaccinate their kids.

In 2015, for example, only 1.3% of children in the United States had received no vaccines by age 24 months. And more than 90% of children completed their primary series of vaccines.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about those who don’t, but maybe you should be a little bit more concerned about your decision to not vaccinate your kids.

More on Clusters of Unvaccinated Kids