This article appeared in The Herald Palladium. Read the full article here.
BENTON TOWNSHIP — As national and local childhood vaccination rates drop for the second year in a row, the Berrien County Health Department is raising awareness of the importance and availability of childhood vaccines.
Nationally, 95 percent of K-12 students were vaccinated at the start of the 2019-20 school year. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, routine health care visits, including childhood vaccinations, dropped as many people deferred appointments to limit their risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and getting sick, according to a news release from the health department.
At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, 93 percent of K-12 students in the U.S. had all of the required vaccines. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination rates be at least 95 percent to achieve herd immunity.
In Berrien County, 92.4 percent of K-12 students had all required vaccinations as of March 31 this year.
“We know there are a variety of reasons someone may be hesitant to get their child vaccinated,” Berrien County Health Officer Guy Miller said in the release. “We know parents and caregivers are receiving information – and misinformation – about vaccines from many different sources.”
The CDC provides guidance on recommended vaccines for various age groups. In Michigan, vaccines required for school entry include:
Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis
Measles, mumps and rubella
“Vaccines have proven time and time again to be the most effective way to protect individuals from devastating diseases,” Miller said. “The Berrien County Health Department and your primary care provider are here to help give you accurate, reliable information about vaccines so you can make the best decision for your child.”
Many providers have reported that while initial vaccinations for young children were high during the pandemic, there has been a drop-off in booster doses and additional vaccines as children get older.
“Though the pandemic is over, it is essential for children to stay up to date on all recommended vaccines and boosters to help them stay healthy,” said Dr. Rex Cabaltica, BCHD’s medical director. “Our youngest community members are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to vaccine-preventable conditions such as polio, measles and pertussis – and vaccines are proven to help reduce the risk of illness.”
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to connect with their primary care provider or the health department to discuss vaccinations for their dependents.