Vaccination. (Photo by kfuhlert/Pixabay)

Marin County health officials are hailing the rise of kindergarten vaccination rates since 2001.

The county has been known for decades for its low childhood vaccination rates that raise concerns about disease outbreaks.

This school year, 94.3 percent of kindergarten students have all the vaccinations required to attend school. It is the closest the county has been to the state average of 94.8 percent since 2001. Marin’s rate last year was 94 percent and 77.9 percent in 2011 — its lowest rate.

“We’re much better off than we were a few years ago,” Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said. “More people are understanding that the threat of communicable disease is real and that vaccinations protect the whole community, not just one child,” Willis said.

Schools, parents, legislators and medical providers all play a role in a community’s health, Willis said.

There are still small pockets of Marin County with low vaccination rates of 5.7 percent of children, and many are clustered in the same schools.

The number of children with medical exemptions from vaccinations grew from eight entering kindergarteners in 2015 — 0.2 percent — to 82, or 2.6 percent in 2018.

The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services believes the increase in vaccinated kindergarteners is the result of education, policy and a change in social norms about immunizations.

California’s immunization laws became stricter in 2016 with the 2015 passage of Senate Bill 277. Parents are no longer allowed to submit a new personal belief exemption to the required immunizations for school and childcare.

A new bill in the California legislature would require the use of a standardized medical exemption form, require a state health department or other authority to review and approve medical exemptions and require the state to monitor the doctors who give children exemptions.

The news about Marin County’s rise in kindergarteners’ immunization rate comes during a national resurgence of measles. There have been 47 cases of measles in California and 10 in the Bay Area this year.