About 3 percent of enrolled kindergartners in San Diego skipped their vaccinations last year, according to a study by the Watchdog Institute.
Now more than ever, parents of kindergartners statewide are signing “personal belief waivers” to exempt their kids from the immunizations. And the rate of exemption in San Diego is higher than any other county in California, according to the study.
The increase is a sign of parents’ growing suspicions of vaccines.
Those who are opposed to immunizing their children cite certain vaccinations’ risky side effects, such as allergies.
Most of the waivers came from private or charter schools and schools in North County. Oasis Organic School, a private elementary school in Encinitas, had the highest exemption rate. Parents who chose not to vaccinate their children tend to be more affluent, the study stated.
A perceived risk of autism might be a factor in the high number of exemptions, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the San Diego County public health officer, told the Watchdog Institute.
Although studies have undeniably shown that vaccinations do not trigger autism, some parents may still link the two in the back of their minds, she said.
“Even though you have the facts, sometimes it’s difficult to separate the facts from emotion.”
The recent drop in vaccination rates may have been one of the causes of last year’s whooping cough outbreak, public health experts said. The outbreak killed 10 babies and sickened thousands more.
On Wednesday, the number of Whooping Cough cases reported this year reached 326, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. The agency highly recommended immunizations for all children in their press release.