My phone wasn’t working well today so I stood in line at the “genius” bar this afternoon to resolve the problem. To be clear, that was 2 1/2 hours ago and I’m home with the promise from a very nice genius that it would be activated by the time I reached my home. It didn’t happen and I’m phoneless (a new thing for me) so it’s quiet around here. In lieu of being able to communicate by phone, I’ll share something I learned while waiting for help. It turns out to have shaped my thoughts for the afternoon.

While at the store, I ran into a researcher who works at the interface of vaccine hesitancy and immunization rates. We got to talking about his work, my writing and work in clinic, and what will ultimately help families. I mentioned what I really want is for families to get good information from their pediatricians (online and off) so when they immunize their children, they rest easy knowing that their children are protected. He asked a question, well two questions, that I didn’t have the answer to in my own life. I wonder, do you?

  • What is the rate of immunization coverage at my son’s preschool? (I have no idea, they have never told me or published the data as far as I know, so I’m unsure how well protected he is). The school collects immunization records and requires immunizations, but I don’t know their exemption policy. If the rate to protect my son from being at risk for acquiring a vaccine-preventable illness is around 90%, I should know if his school meets the mark. I’m writing an e-mail in a moment to find out.
  • If the school isn’t 90% immunized, is he in a safe preschool? If not, what should I do about it?

We got to talking about how we’d get these numbers. And then what we’d do with the results (if below 90%). Public school vaccination rates by county are publicly available in Washington but are not necessarily shared readily. From a quick search, I couldn’t find it broken down by individual school. So maybe it’s up to us, the community, to find out about the numbers. When you go to the PTA meeting and/or when you evaluate a school for your child, we’re taught to think about teaching efficacy, safety, teaching philosophy, and student success. We often think to ask about math test scores, violence and bullying, teacher-to-child ratios, principal vision, and graduation rates. From a safety perspective, shouldn’t we also be asking about immunization rates, too? Shouldn’t this be a requisite part of the checklist?

Do you know what percent of children in your child’s preschool or school are fully immunized? What about the soccer team? Do you care? Recently I heard about a parent organizing a “vaccinated” playgroup on Twitter (see below). Going too far? Since we rely on community immunity for our children’s safety, what number is acceptable for you?