WEDNESDAY, Sept. 6, 2017 (HealthDay News) — There was an increase in the number of children with medical exemptions (MEs) from immunization in California from 2015 to 2016 after elimination of personal belief exemptions (PBEs), according to a research letter published online Sept. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Paul L. Delamater, Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues examined statewide change in MEs in the first year under California Senate Bill (SB) 277, which eliminated the PBE provision from the state’s school-entry vaccine mandates. Data were obtained from the California Department of Public Health’s yearly Kindergarten Immunization Assessment reports.
The researchers found that the percentage of kindergarteners with MEs was largely stable in the 20 years prior to SB 277, while PBE use increased. The percentage of MEs increased from 0.17 to 0.51 percent in the first year under SB 277. The percentage of PBEs, however, decreased from 2.37 percent in 2015 to 0.56 percent in 2016. From 2015 to 2016 the total exemption percentage (PBEs + MEs) decreased from 2.54 to 1.06 percent. There was a positive correlation between county-level change in ME percentage and previous PBE use (Pearson r = 0.65).
“Although this study was limited to a single year of data following the implementation of SB 277, the results warrant attention from both the medical and public health communities,” the authors write.
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