The San Francisco Unified School District is considering updating its vaccination policy following a widespread measles outbreak that began in Southern California late last year and has since reached the Bay Area.
While the SFUSD has been in the midst of reviewing its policies for at least three years, officials have proposed re-examining the health policy earlier than scheduled due to the measles outbreak that has raised attention on parents' vaccination decisions. The Board of Education Rules, Policy and Legislation Committee took up the issue last week and was set to report back to the full board Tuesday night.
“We just thought it was prudent given the situation with the measles outbreak,” said Commissioner Jill Wynns, who chairs the committee.
The district's current policy mirrors California's, which requires all schoolchildren to be vaccinated against certain diseases, although families can opt out if they sign a personal-belief exemption or have a medical-related reason. The district added language to its policy in 2014 to allow personal belief exemptions, in alignment with the state.
Should the district adopt a new vaccination policy, it too would reflect state law and may strengthen requirements for vaccinations. The primary goal is to protect students who are unable to be vaccinated for health reasons, Wynns said.
Questions raised at last week's committee meeting include whether all personal-belief exemptions could be voted on by the board, whether information of certain unimmunized children could be made public and whether exempted students could be prohibited from attending school upon declaration of a health emergency.
The committee may also recommend that the board take a stance in support of Senate Bill 277, which would repeal the personal-belief exemption for vaccinations of California children. The bill, authored by state Sens. Richard Pan and Ben Allen, was introduced Thursday.
San Francisco's public schools see relatively few personal-belief exemptions, though the number has slightly increased in the past five years. About 1.8 percent of parents have signed personal-belief exemptions for San Francisco kindergarteners this school year, compared to 1.26 percent in the 2010-11 school year.
Additionally, in the 2010-11 school year, 88.9 percent of kindergarteners received all vaccinations compared to 86.4 percent in 2014-15. A number of Bay Area counties, including Alameda, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara, have seen measles cases since December. Though no cases of measles have been confirmed in a San Francisco resident, a person who works in The City and traveled on BART early this month was diagnosed with measles.
Also Tuesday, Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced a resolution to the Board of Supervisors in support of SB 277, citing the importance of vaccinations among children.
“There is no scientific basis for not vaccinating children, with the exception of the small minority of children who have health problems,” Wiener said in a statement. “We need to move forward in improving health efforts in California, not backward.”