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California's kindergartner vaccination rates below federal goals

June 2, 2011 |  1:16 pm

Vaccination rates among California's kindergartners are below U.S. goals for 2020, according to a new federal report released Thursday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 95% of kindergartners should be vaccinated for nine diseases. But in California, only about 93% of kindergartners are inoculated for the ailments: polio; diphtheria; tetanus; pertussis, also known as whooping cough; measles; mumps; and rubella.

But more California kindergartners were inoculated for Hepatitis B and varicella, also known as chickenpox. For those diseases, more than 96% were inoculated.

The figures, which covered the 2009-10 school year, were issued in Thursday's edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Different states had varying rates of inoculation. For the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, Mississippi reported the highest rate of vaccination, with 99.7% of its kindergartners inoculated; at the bottom end was Iowa, with 84.5%. 

High vaccination rates are important to reduce the spread of infectious disease. Last month, California health officials warned about an increase in measles cases in California, which have been brought into the state by travelers not immunized against the virus. Out of the 13 people with measles in California so far this year, four have been hospitalized.

Measles is considered very rare in the Western Hemisphere, but is a significant problem in Europe, Asia and Africa.

The Times reported in 2009 that a rising number of California parents were choosing to send their children to kindergarten without routine vaccinations, spooked by fears that vaccines are unsafe. Subsequent studies have discredited the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism. The Times analysis in 2009 found that exemptions from vaccines among California kindergartners have more than doubled since 1997.

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--- Rong-Gong Lin II

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