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San Diego Students Head To School Under New Vaccine Law

Photo caption: Backpacks hang outside of a San Diego classroom.

Photo by Ana Tintocalis

Backpacks hang outside of a San Diego classroom.

San Diego Students Head To School Under New Vaccine Law

GUEST:

Dr. Mark Sawyer, pediatric infectious disease specialist, Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego

Transcript

San Diego Unified School District's new school session starts Monday. It's the first year students will be required to be vaccinated under California law with only minor exceptions.

RELATED: San Diego Judge Won’t Block California’s Strict Child Vaccination Law

The law, passed last summer, no longer allows parents to waive school vaccination requirements due to personal or religious beliefs. Medical exceptions are still allowed. The law was passed after researchers found a 2014 measles outbreak that began at Disneyland was tied to low vaccination rates.

"I think that event did a lot to galvanize people thinking about the role of public protection and public health versus individual decision making on behalf of parents, which this is really all about," Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady's Children's Hospital San Diego, told KPBS Midday Edition on Friday. "At some point we all have to recognize that infectious diseases are shared amongst all of us and the decision of one parent to not immunize their child affects other parents who they don't even know and children they don't even know."

Sawyer said that many studies have already addressed concern by some parents who believe vaccines can lead to autism.

"There's no evidence at all that vaccines are linked to autism," he said. "The operative word here is 'believe.' It's fine for you to believe something. But the real way to make decisions is based on scientific evidence."

Vaccination rates appear to already be on the rise, San Diego Health officials said earlier this month. During the 2013-2014 school year, 4.5 percent of kindergartners weren't immunized, but that fell to 3.6 percent last year. Officials expect the number to continue to fall.

Existing personal or religious exemptions for students already in school remain in effect until a student reaches the seventh grade, when the state requires immunization documentation. Students who have already attended seventh grade don't have to receive vaccinations before they graduate.

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