Record number of unvaccinated children attended school in California in 2010

State health officials in California are concerned because a record number of kindergartners began school without proper immunizations last year.

A record number of parents exempted their children from vaccinations because of their personal beliefs, according to USA Today.

More than 11,000 kindergarten students missed at least one vaccination in 2010. That number comes to 2.5 percent of the state’s total students enrolled in kindergarten, the highest number to miss a vaccination since 1978, the year before the introduction of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine requirement.

Debate over childhood vaccinations has been growing in California, where last year’s whooping cough outbreak killed 10 babies and sickened at least 9,100 people. The outbreak prompted the formation of a state law requiring booster shots for middle and high school students returning to school this fall.

The percentage of parents signing vaccine exemptions has been rising steadily since 2004. John Talarico, the head of the immunization branch of the California Department of Public Health, pointed out that the rise coincides with the rising use of the Internet for information.

"We really think a lot of it is due to honest, valid concern that parents do the best thing for their child coupled with misinformation that gets out through various forms of communication," Talarico said, USA Today reports.

Talarico said he hopes the trend will slow, especially with the media coverage of the whooping cough outbreak.

"When people can see disease around them, it generally drives them to think about the benefit the vaccine can give their children versus whatever else they hear," Talarico said, according to USA Today.