By Ralph Schwartz
I know school just let out for the summer, but it’s August already — time for back-to-school shopping and for shots of vaccine, especially for those entering kindergarten and middle school.
The state Department of Health today put out its annual call, urging parents to get their children up-to-date on the disease-preventing shots.
The state requires a certain set of immunizations for school attendance. The Legislature raised the bar in 2011 for getting an exemption from the shot requirements. Now, parents must submit an exemption certificate, signed by a health care provider, stating that the provider explained the benefits and risks of immunizations before granting the exemption.
The exemption rate in Washington state dropped between 2010-11 and 2011-12, and the state credits the new law. There was a decrease in Whatcom County, too — the proportion of exempt kindergartners went from 9.9 percent in 2010-11 to 5.9 percent last school year.
However, Whatcom remains above the state average for children without the complete battery of shots.
To compare (2011-12 numbers):
- State: 84.6 percent of K students had complete immunizations
- Whatcom: 79.2 percent
- State: 4.5 percent of K students were exempted
- Whatcom: 5.9 percent
- State: 9.1 percent of K students were “out of compliance” — neither up-to-date on their shots nor exempt
- Whatcom: 13.0 percent
The trend in Whatcom County over the past decade has been toward a smaller proportion of kindergarten students getting their shots: 84.0 percent in 2002-03 to 79.2 percent last year.