As the conversation around vaccinating your children goes forward, there is a new thing to look at. In California, there has been an uptick in kindergartners who are not vaccinated being home-schooled. Some parents feel it's their only way to maintain their choice not to vaccinate.
California has one of the strictest laws on vaccinations. And while not all parents who choose homeschooling are doing it specifically because of vaccinations, they certainly play a part. Currently, the law states that children must have their most up to date vaccinations, and the only exceptions must come from a doctor. Children who are home-schooled are exempt from this law. The law has only been in place since 2016 after the Disneyland measles outbreak.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of kindergartners who are home-schooled and not vaccinated has quadrupled. In 2016, it was slightly above 1,000 kids, probably about 2,000 or so. As of 2018, that number hovers close to 7,000. While there is certainly a correlation, it's hard to know if the numbers are growing solely because of the vaccine loophole.
“We became a state where they force vaccination, and I was totally against vaccination,” California mom Kardie Lee tells the Times.
California is one of three states that don't allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids. Before 2016, parents could fill out a form to say they didn't "believe" in vaccination. But then the 2016 measles outbreak happened, which scientists say is a direct affect of kids not being vaccinated. According to California's health department, approximately 1.2 percent of home-schooled kindergartners are also not vaccinated during this last school year.
However, it is worth noting that nationally, the number of home-schooled kids is on the rise. So those advocates of the California law are saying the trend isn't solely because of the vaccinations.
“The majority of people who we home-school with did not come into it because of SB 277 at all,” says Monique Labarre, a woman who runs a Facebook group for homeschooling families based in San Diego.
“The vaccination piece is more a symptom than a cause,” adds Leah Russin, executive director of Vaccinate California. “People who distrust [the government], they don’t want their kids having a standardized education, they’re also not going to want standardized medication — and they’re not going to listen to authorities about either,” she says
But here's the thing that parents who won't vaccinate don't want to realize. Those same kids who aren't being vaccinated may go to school at home, but they're still interacting with the outside world. There are groups for home school kids to get together and do things like field trips or group learning. If one of those kids comes down with something like the measles, it's only a matter of time before it spreads. And if they're going to the playground, or even just the grocery store, they could be spreading the diseases.