Why do so many Capitol Hill-area kindergarten immunization rates still fall below herd immunity? Here’s what one school said

For the second straight day, there were no reported new cases of measles in Washington State.

That’s a weird sentence to start the news in 2019. But it’s true. There’s an outbreak of measles in modern day Washington. How did we get here… again?

Wednesday, the Seattle Times again rolled out the county’s illuminating dataset showing kindergarten immunization coverage rates for the 2017-2018 school year. Every couple of years when an outbreak flares again and people start talking about herd immunity — the point where enough people are immunized to protect those most vulnerable to infection — the same glaring red dot in the center of Capitol Hill draws attention and questions.

CAPITOL HILL AND CENTRAL DISTRICT AREA SCHOOLS

Why does 10th Ave E’s Bright Water School have some of the worst vaccination metrics in the city?

CHS asked the private Waldorf school about the numbers and a representative provided a letter sent to Bright Water parents by head of school Jayasri Ghosh. In the statement, Ghosh says the stats don’t accurately reflect the immunization rates at Bright Water.

“Since two-thirds of our 33 Early Childhood students at the reporting deadline were not yet 5, the age at which required vaccines must be documented, many had not received scheduled immunizations, suppressing the official vaccination rate for our kindergartners,” Ghosh writes.

Ghosh said that the school’s own review shows they still fall well below the herd immunity threshold — but they’re close and making progress:

A review of all vaccination documentation provided by our families from Early Childhood through Grade 8 shows that 87 percent of our students have received some of the required vaccinations and 67 percent have been fully immunized against mumps, measles and rubella. While our full compliance rate remains well below the 90 percent levels required for so-called “herd immunity” that will better protect our community, we are making progress and continue to take this issue seriously.

The stats, meanwhile, across Capitol Hill and Central District area kindergartens show there is also more work to be done beyond Bright Water. It’s part of a statewide trend, unfortunately. Washington ranks eighth in the nation for student vaccine exemption rates.


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10 thoughts on “Why do so many Capitol Hill-area kindergarten immunization rates still fall below herd immunity? Here’s what one school said

  1. “Why does 10th Ave E’s Bright Water School have some of the worst vaccination metrics in the city?” Because Bright Water is a Waldorf school, and the Waldorf school movement has long been associated with high rates of non-vaccination:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/11/29/why-small-groups-vaccine-refusers-can-make-large-groups-people-sick/?utm_term=.beeaaf82472d

    https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/maq.12214

    https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicken-pox-vaccinations-waldorf-schools-chicago-20181216-story.html

    • The writers on this blog have never masqueraded as being opinion-free. If you haven’t noticed that already, either you’re a new reader or you’re not very perceptive. I read opinions I don’t necessarily agree with all the time on here, from lots of people, but nobody forces me to agree with them.

  2. I really hope the State Legislature takes up this issue soon, and that they end the “personal/philosophical” exemption that some parents use to not vaccinate their kids. The “religious” exemption should also end, because parents who previously used the personal/philosophical reason will just fraudulently switch to the religious.

    It’s very selfish of some parents to not vaccinate, because they are directly putting other children at risk.

    • Basically, the only reason to not vaccinate a child is if qualified doctor(s) have documented that a child may risk harm from a specific vaccine due to a diagnosed medical condition.

      The state would need to carefully carve out that medical exemption and I would even go so far as to require medical exemptions are on a vaccine by vaccine basis per each child in question.

  3. “Since two-thirds of our 33 Early Childhood students at the reporting deadline were not yet 5, the age at which required vaccines must be documented, many had not received scheduled immunizations, suppressing the official vaccination rate for our kindergartners,”

    So parents only do it by age 5 because the state makes them? Not because it’s best for their kids? They’re in kindergarten and they’re around other kids. Shouldn’t that be the determinant for their kids’ health, not what the law requires?

    • He may have misstated that… there are more than a few vaccines that are not completed until a series of doses are given and the last dose is given at the age of 4-6 years – so technically a child is not considered to be fully vaccinated, even if they are on the CDC recommended schedule until that age. DPT, Polio, MMR and Varicella all have doses in that age range. That’s one of the reasons that herd immunity is so important…

      • Nope – only the extremely low complete rate… that they have a mixture of kids, many too young to have had all of their vaccinations as of yet (that’s not typical is it? To have a mix of preschool and school age kids…), would make it seem much more important that their older kids be compliant to avoid spreading illnesses to the kids who may still not have full immunity. 27% claiming exemption would worry me, if I had a young child in care there. That’s more than a quarter of the kids who pose a risk to the others – today it may be measles, but there are other nasty diseases that are still floating around out there too.

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