By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
A state law that makes it tougher for parents to opt out of having their kids receive the immunizations required to attend school seems to have had an effect.
Exemption rates have dropped significantly since the law was passed last year, according to the state Department of Health.
Kindergarten exemption rates for required immunizations dropped from 6 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 4.5 percent in the 2011-12 school year.
“I think the new law is playing a huge factor,” said Michele Roberts, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health’s immunization program.
The law brought a lot of attention to the issue of children who weren’t immunized, and toughened requirements for parents making that decision, she said.
“Parents had to be sure about the steps they were taking,” Roberts said.
The longer the law is in place, the more effect it may have, she said.
The new law went into effect July 22. Any kindergartner who was registered before that date could be exempted from its provisions for this school year.
The law’s provisions will be fully in effect for the 2012-13 school year. “We think this is only the beginning of the impact we’ll see from this law,” Roberts said.
The state law sought to close a loophole that many parents used to avoid providing proof of vaccinations to schools. Previously, all they had to do was sign a piece of paper saying they had religious, medical or personal objections to vaccines.
Under the new law, parents who want their child to opt out of vaccines must meet with a medical provider, get a signed letter confirming that the consultation took place and provide the note to child-care centers or schools. That could mean an extra cost to parents of about $90 to $100.
Children who aren’t fully immunized can be sent home during outbreaks of a disease for which they have not been vaccinated.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.