Updated
August 8th, 2019

California Charter School Vaccination Rate Dips to 57%

High vaccination rates can create herd immunity protection for infants

boy playnig at a school

According to a new analysis, the state of California's charter and private schools trail public schools in the percentage of students vaccinated for contagious diseases.

EdSource published its analysis of the California Department of Public Health data on August 7, 2019, reporting that 78 percent of traditional public school students had all required vaccinations necessary to be protected from common infectious diseases.

While only 68 percent of private schools and 57 percent of California’s charter schools met the 2018 vaccination rate goal of 95 percent of the state Department of Public Health.

Additionally, the EdSource data analysis showed charter schools and private schools led the state of California in the percentage of students exempted from vaccinations for medical reasons.

At the start of the 2018 academic year in California, nearly 7 percent of charter school students were enrolled with medical exemptions from vaccinations.  Private schools reported almost 6 percent enrolled with medical exemptions. 

This data compares to less than 1 percent of traditional public school students with medical exemptions from vaccines.

“Like California’s traditional district schools, charter public schools are required to comply with the law,” said California Charter Schools Association spokeswoman Brittany Chord Parmley in a statement.

Under California’s existing law, children must be immunized against 10 serious communicable diseases if they want to attend public or private schools and childcare centers. Studies have linked clusters of unvaccinated children to outbreaks of measles, pertussis, and chickenpox.

According to the EdSource analysis, families can get a medical exemption from a doctor who states that the child should not be vaccinated because of either a temporary or permanent medical condition.

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The EdSource analysis includes an interactive map that shows the location and details of schools whose vaccination rates fall below 95 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say achieving the 95 percent vaccination rate is needed to create ‘herd-immunity’, which helps protect those who are unable to be vaccinated for specific medical conditions, such as newborn children.

The EdSource analysis focused on 6,524 public and private schools that enrolled at least 20 kindergarten students in the 2018-19 school year. Schools that fell below that enrollment were not included in the state’s data. 

All California schools are required to report vaccination rate data to the state, but 236 did not, says EdSource.

The EdSource analysis shows among all schools who reported data, there are 20 with Waldorf in their name with vaccination rates under 50 percent. Waldorf schools are usually independent private schools, but some in California, often called Waldorf-inspired schools, are public schools.

The CDC says all states, the District of Columbia, and US territories have vaccination requirements for children attending childcare facilities and schools.

Studies have shown that vaccine exemptions tend to cluster geographically, making some communities at greater risk for disease outbreaks.

The CDC’s Public Health Law Program has compiled state statutes and regulations regarding school vaccinations. For more information, please visit the State School and Childcare Vaccination Laws.