Unsurprisingly it sounds like public charter schools are big anti-vaxx magnets.
At two public charter schools in the Sonoma wine country town of Sebastopol, more than half the kindergartners received medical exemptions from state-required vaccines last school year. The cities of Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Nevada City, Arcata, and Sausalito all had schools in which more than 30 percent of the kindergartners had been granted such medical exemptions.
Nearly three years ago, with infectious disease rates ticking up, California enacted a fiercely contested law barring parents from citing personal or religious beliefs to avoid vaccinating their children. Children could be exempted only on medical grounds, if the shots were harmful to health.
Yet today, many of the schools that had the highest rates of unvaccinated students before the new measure continue to hold that alarming distinction. That's because parents have found end runs around the new law requiring vaccinations. And they have done so, often, with the cooperation of doctors—some not even pediatricians. One prolific exemption provider is a psychiatrist who runs an anti-aging clinic.
Doctors in California have broad authority to grant medical exemptions to vaccination, and to decide the grounds for doing so. Some are wielding that power liberally and sometimes for cash: signing dozens—even hundreds—of exemptions for children in far-off communities.
"It's sort of the Hail Mary of the vaccine refusers who are trying to circumvent SB 277," the California Senate bill signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2015, says Brian Prystowsky, a Santa Rosa pediatrician. "It's really scary stuff. We have pockets in our community that are just waiting for measles to rip through their schools."
The number of California children granted medical exemptions from vaccinations has tripled in the past two years.