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Bay Area Private Schools Rank High In Vaccination Opt-Out Rates

MILL VALLEY (KCBS)— Bay Area public health leaders are reacting to news that parents of private school children in California are more likely to opt out of vaccinations than parents of kids in public schools.

California surveys all schools with at least 10 kindergartners to determine how many have all the recommended immunizations. The Associated Press analyzed that data and found the percentage of children in private schools whose parents forego some or all vaccinations is more than two times greater than in public schools. And not even the recent re-emergence of whooping cough has halted the downward trajectory among the private school students.

KCBS' Jeffrey Schaub Reports:

Public health officials say the rate of children entering private schools without all of their shots jumped by 10 percent last year, while the opt-out figures held steady in public schools for the first time since 2004.

The Bay Area has some of the highest opt-out rates, with Greenwood School in Mill Valley ranking at the fourth highest.

Laura Shumaker, parent of three, said she was like a lot of parents with autistic children that latch onto beliefs that vaccinations lead to autism.

"My son Matthew is autistic, he's 26-years-old. In the very beginning, when he was first diagnosed, I wondered about this vaccine," she said.

Now she believes it was not a vaccine that caused her own son's illness, but many other parents worry.

The immunization gap is an issue and Governor Brown has been asked to confront. A current bill would mandate that parents meet with a pediatrician or school nurse before opting out.

Vaccination advocates warn that childhood diseases that were once thought long-gone now are on the comeback. Marin County's Immunization Coordinator Sharayn Forkel said no child should ever die from a disease that is vaccine preventable.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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