More kids starting school in California without vaccines

istockphoto/Jaimie D. Travis

Despite state laws that require children be vaccinated before heading to the classroom, California health officials are concerned that more and more parents seem to be opting out.

Last week the CDC reported that a majority of children nationwide -- 90 percent -- are receiving vaccines. However, vaccine rates to protect children from viruses such mumps, rubella, polio and hepatitis B differ widely among states.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that parents in California are opting to not vaccinate their kindergarten-age kids at almost twice the rate as just seven years ago. This statewide trend helps explain the growing number of measles and whooping cough cases among school-age children in the state.

Though some parents choose to not vaccinate their children due to religious beliefs, many have made the decision as a result of since-discredited claims linking common vaccines to an increased risk for autism. Extensive scientific studies have shown there is no such link.

According to the California Department of Public Health, 2.6 percent of kindergarten-age children enrolled in private school weren't vaccinated and that number increased to 5.7 in 2013 to 2014. In public schools, the rates of vaccine exemption were 1.4 percent in the 2007-2008 school year, and 2.9 percent in 2013-2014.

A statewide survey conducted by the Los Angeles Times determined that rates of vaccine exemption due to personal belief were most common in wealthy communities. For example, at a Santa Cruz Montessori school, about 7% of kindergartners in 2007 were exempt from vaccinations because of personal belief, though last fall, that rate was found to be more than triple at 22.6%.