Lynden SD

(Courtesy photo/Lynden School District)

New law on exemptions is now in effect for 2019-20 school year 

WHATCOM ­— More than 75 percent of students in local school districts began the 2018-19 school year in full compliance with immunization requirements. 

Almost nine in 10 kindergartners in the state of Washington are fully immunized when they start school, according to new data from the Washington State Department of Health. 

Up until this school year, families could claim one of three types of exemptions — health, religious and personal — to the rules for child immunizations. However, action by the state Legislature in May 2019 makes changes. 

Lawmakers passed a bill that removes the personal exemption option for the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. This vaccine is otherwise required of all children entering school or childcare facilities. The bill, which took effect on July 28, applies to all public and private schools in the state. 

Students may still claim a religious or medical reason for opting out.

In the Lynden School District a year ago, 82.7 percent of kindergartners had all of their vaccinations complete. Seven percent were exempt, 9.2 percent were out of compliance, and 1.1 percent were conditional, a temporary status meaning a child lacks one or more required immunizations. 

Across all grades, 89.5 percent of students in the Lynden district had completed immunizations and 6.9 percent were exempt. 

Kindergartners in the Nooksack Valley School District had a 75.6 percent completed immunization rate last school year. Only 2.6 percent were exempt and 0.6 percent were in conditional status, leaving 21.2 percent out of compliance. 

Across all grade levels, 84.8 percent of Nooksack Valley students had completed immunizations and 4.4 percent were exempt. 

The Mount Baker School District had 76.9 percent of its kindergartners in full compliance last year. Conditional status was given to 1.4 percent, 9.5 percent were exempt and 12.2 percent were out of compliance. 

Rates across all grades were higher, with 82 percent of students having completed vaccinations and 13.5 percent being exempt. 

The completed immunization rate for kindergartners in the Meridian School District was 85.3 percent last year, with 5.2 percent being exempt. Across all grade levels, 87.3 percent of students had completed their vaccinations and 8.9 percent were exempt. 

The Ferndale School District had the highest rate of students last year with completed vaccinations, at 89.9 percent across all grades with 7.6 percent being exempt. 

The Ferndale district had 86.4 percent of its kindergartners in full compliance, with 7.9 percent being exempt and 3.7 percent out of compliance. 

According to the state Department of Health, the new law does not affect most students. 

An article in the Sept. 29 Seattle Times reports that now in October 2019 school districts across the state will be scrambling to process updated paperwork and sending out final notices to families about compliance with immunization requirements. Completed data should be in by November, and then it’s possible to see how the new law about exemptions may force any enforcement action.

The legislative mood for action was fired up by 86 reported cases of measles across Washington in early 2019, the highest number since 1990, state Health reported. Much of the measles outbreak was in the Vancouver area.